To allow someone to contribute, is to include them in the community. That applies evenly for an out-of-touch millionaire or a homeless man.
As I walked back to my car after a 13-hour shift at work, I could not get back into my car and home fast enough. When I approach my car I see that in a hurry to get into work this morning, I had parked my back tire up on the curve and hadn’t even noticed. I bend down to take a closer look only to see that my back tire is sitting flat. Joy!
I ask the nearby security guard where the nearest gas station is. At this point I’m hoping that I can slowly drive there, put some air in the tire and at least make it home for the night. He tells me of a gas station about 10 blocks down the road – entering Overtown. In case you aren’t from Miami, I’ll inform you that this is not the best place to be hanging out with a flat tire, at 10pm, dressed in full business attire. Needless to say, I attracted some unwanted attention from the moment I pulled up to the gas station. Several sketchy dudes were loitering outside the gas station asking for change, which I didn’t have.
As I stood in line to get change for the air compressor, annoyed and on high alert, I notice the man standing behind me in line. He is mumbling something indirectly at me. I make out the word “change”. He is holding two bags of chips and a Dr. Pepper, draped in dirty clothes and holding a pair of heavy looking knapsacks. In one hand, he is holding a collection of coins and appears to be coming up short. The cashier calls me up as I am distracted looking at the man.
I tell the man to put his items on the counter, I will buy him the food. He hesitates, almost ashamed, and then begins to walk towards the shelves to put back one of the bags of chips on the shelf. I can only assume that he thought I wouldn’t buy both bags of chips for some reason. Maybe he thought the extra dollar was overkill. I can’t help but crack a smile at the polite man and ask him to please put all the items on the counter. With a shocked look on his face he puts the items on the counter and the cashier rings us up. As I walk out, the man thanks me with a smile on his face. It felt nice being able to help, but what happened next was much more inspiring.
As I kneel down near the air compressor putting air into my tire I hear a man’s voice behind me. It’s him again: the man with his chips, soda, and pair of knapsacks. “Hey man, are you ok?” he asks. I tell him that I think I will be fine once I get air in my tire. I explain how I parked up on a curb this morning and I think the pressure might have caused it to leak some air. Instantly, almost on cue, the man drops to his knees next to me and starts digging furiously through his knapsack. He pulls out a bottle of “Fix-a-Flat“.
Instantly, I think to myself “What are the freaking chances?!” Seriously, what are the odds that all this randomly came together this way? Immediately, my belief in karma and a higher power were confirmed. The man helped me with my tire and even let me keep the bottle, “just in case” he said.
As I drove home that night I felt so much joy and I wasn’t sure of why exactly. I mean, I’ve given to homeless man before but it never felt like this. Of course it feels good to help others, especially those in need – but this was different. Then it clicked in my head. I gave him something more than some chips and soda. I gave him the opportunity to help. The opportunity to give back. This was a man down on his luck who could barely take care of himself, yet he was so eager to help me with my tire.
What started out as an annoying flat tire adventure in one of the sketchiest Miami hoods, turned into a priceless lesson. Life takes many twists and turns. Circumstances change for everyone but in the end we are all a lot more similar than we are different. Respect for each other and humility has a funny way of helping us find our way when we are the most lost. However, one thing is universally consistent: the joy you will feel in your heart when you are able to help someone who needs it.