I couldn't believe it. Of all the times for this to happen. . .a flat tire. But when is a good time? Not when you are wearing a suit and you have been traveling for nearly five hours and, added to this bleak picture, nightfall is approaching. Wait! Did I mention I was on a country road?
There was only one thing to do. Call the local automobile association. Yeah, right. The cell phone I bought, for security and protection from moments like these, isn't in range to call anyone. "No Service," it says. No kidding! I thought.
I sat for a few minutes moaning and complaining. Then I began emptying my trunk so I could get at the tire and tools needed to get the job done. I carry a large plastic container filled with what I call "just-in-case-stuff." When I am training or speaking I love to have props with me. I hate leaving anything home so I bring everything. . ."just in case."
Cars buzzed by me. A few beeped sarcastically. It was as if the horns were saying, "Ha, ha."
Darkness began to settle in, and it became more difficult to see. Thank goodness it was the tire on the passenger's side, away from the traffic—but that only made it more impossible to benefit from the headlights of passing cars.
Suddenly a car pulled off the road behind me. In the blinding light, I saw a male figure approaching me.
"Hey, do you need any help?"
"Well, it certainly isn't easy doing this with a white dress shirt and suit on," I said sarcastically.
Then he stepped into the light. I was literally frightened. This young guy was dressed in black. Nearly everything imaginable was pierced and tattooed. His hair was cropped and poorly cut and he wore leather bracelets with spikes on each wrist.
"How about I give you a hand?" he said.
"Well, I don't know. . .I think I can. . ."
"Come on, it will only take me a few minutes."
He took right over. While I watched him, I happened to look back at his car and noticed, for the first time, someone sitting in the passenger seat. That concerned me. I suddenly felt outnumbered. Thoughts of car-jackings and robberies flashed through my mind. I really just wanted to get this over and survive the ordeal.
Then, without warning, it began to pour. The night sky had hidden the approaching clouds. It hit like a waterfall and made it impossible to finish changing the tire.
"Look my friend, just stop what you're doing. I appreciate all your help. You’d better get going. I'll finish after the rain stops," I said.
"Let me help you put your stuff back in the trunk. It will get ruined," he insisted. "Then get in my car. We'll wait with you."
"No, really. I'll take care of everything," I said.
"You can't get in your car with the jack up like that. It will fall. Come on. Get in!" He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the car. Crack! Boom! Lightening and thunder roared like a freight train. I jumped into his car. Oh, God protect me, I prayed to myself.
Wet and tired, I settled into the back seat. Suddenly a kindly, frail voice came from the front seat. "Are you all right?" A petite old woman asked as she turned around to face me. "Yes, I am," I replied, greatly relieved at seeing the old woman there. I suspected she was his mom. "My name is Beatrice, and this is my neighbor, Joey," she said. "He insisted on stopping when he saw you struggling with the tire."
"I am grateful for his help," I responded.
"Me, too." Beatrice laughed. "Joey takes me to visit my husband. We had to place him in a nursing home, and it's about thirty minutes away from my residence. So, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Joey and I have a date." With a childish grin she looked at Joey.
Joey's whimsical remark, "We're the remake of the Odd Couple," gave us all a good laugh.
"Joey, that's incredible what you do for her. I would never have guessed, well, you know I. . ." I stumbled with the words.
"I know. People who look like me don't do nice things," he said.
I was silent. I really felt uncomfortable. I never judge people by the way they dress, and I was angry with myself for being so foolish.
"Joey is a great kid. I'm not the only one he helps—he's also a volunteer at our church. He also works with the kids in the learning center at the low income housing unit in our town," Beatrice added.
"I'm a tutor," Joey said modestly as he stared at my car.
I reflected for a few moments on what Joey said. He was right. What he wore on the outside was a reflection of the world as he saw it. What he wore on the inside was the spirit of giving, caring and loving the world from his point of view.
When the rain stopped, Joey and I changed the tire. I tried to offer him money, and he refused.
As we shook hands, I began to apologize for my stupidity. He said, "I experience that same reaction all the time. I actually thought about changing the way I look, but then I saw this as an opportunity to make a point. So I'll leave you with the same question that I ask everyone who takes time to know me. 'If Jesus returned tomorrow and walked among us again, would you recognize him by what he wore or by what he did?'"
Joey walked back to his car. As they drove off, Beatrice was smiling and waving as she began to laugh again. I could almost hear her saying, "You got another one Joey. You got another one."