I stopped to fill up my gas tank on my way to work today. My ‘E’ light had been on since my trip into work yesterday, so I couldn’t procrastinate any longer or I might be stranded on the freeway.
After I swiped my card and began filling my tank, I overheard the man at the pump next to me on his cell phone. He was saying something about taking a trip ‘up here’ to ‘drop her off’ and he only had a dollar left on the gas card, he didn’t bring any cash and he didn’t know how he was going to get all the way back to pick up the kids.
I used to live in Chicago and I developed a hard shell and a mean glare. In the neighborhood I work now, I get asked for money, change, a spare buck, all the time. I never give a free handout. To me, my time is worth more than money. I give by volunteering, but I never give to beggars.
But this morning, as I overheard this man’s conversation, some sympathetic part of me took over and I peered around the pump that separated us. “I’m going in to get coffee,” I said to him. “I’ll put $5 of gas on your pump.”
“God bless you, honey,” he replied. “And thank you.”
I went into the station and asked for five dollars on pump 18. She rang it up and I paid with my card. I went and got my coffee and came back to the register.
“Coffee is on the house,” she said with a wink.
I went back to my car and the man was filling his tank and thanked me again. I got in, closed my door and turned the ignition.
The car started and the radio played Joan Osborne’s One of Us.