We had no idea what to expect when Steve walked up to our truck at a gas station on our way to Texas.
We had exited I-10 somewhere around Marianna, FL to get some gas, hit the restrooms and eat some of the lunch we had packed for our drive to Dallas, TX. After filling up, I parked the truck far away from the convenience store. We dropped the tailgate and began to a little lunch before tackling the rest of that seemingly endless stretch if highway to Pensacola.
“Excuse me, sir,” he began. “I hate to bother you. I just need a little help.” I’ve had plenty of people begin a conversation with me in that way. He continued, “I just need a little more money for a place for the night.”
I thought all kinds of things to myself, “Do we look like someone with money? Are you for real? Is this safe? What would Jesus do?”
Without much thought I reached for my wallet. I had gotten a little cash for the trip, just in case. I was prepared for a quick transaction when he continued, “I’m just trying to get to the Villages, where I need to move my mom to hospice care.”
We had planned to go visit my son and his family in Texas twice earlier in the year. One thing after another had prevented a trip. We were so excited to be on our way to see the Texas grandkids. We were in a very good mood.
“My name’s Steve. I know I was going too fast, but hey, my custom built car was more than up to the task. I was just about to pass this truck when something few off the back and hit the front of my car. I pulled over only to discover my radiator was leaking.”
Steve knew much more about cars than I did, but I pretended to keep up, impressed by his ride. “Finally the state police stopped to make sure I was OK. They helped me get a tow and a place to stay, but I had maxed out my card and had to pay with cash.”
As we listened to his story, my wife has prepared cheese sticks, lunchmeat, oranges and seltzer water to give him. I’ve got $40 in my hand to give him. But he has a story to tell.
Steve said, “I served two tours in the Middle East.” He was wearing an army t-shirt.
“After I got home, I boxed professionally, then I did some cage fighting, and after that I fought underground.” His muscles and the silver boxing gloves on a chain around his neck testified to this. His arm muscles seemed to verify his story, too.
After waiting so long to see my son and his family, we were in a great mood that day. I would have given him a few buck on the spot. But he needed to tell his story.
And what a story he had. Two tours overseas. Fighting for a living. An acreage somewhere in the Florida panhandle. And his mom needed him.
In that moment I thought, “Everyone needs to tell their story.” Some write a best selling novel. Others keep a private journal. Steve found his audience at a gas station.
I am glad I was there to listen.