My constant friend and occasional critic, Charlie Wilson, stopped by the other day. “Picked up any hitchhikers lately?” he asked with only a slight hint of sarcasm and with no discernible trace of contempt. “As a matter of fact…” I started but he cut me off with, “Yeah, I read your thing on Facebook about the guy who ran out of gas.”
This surprised me. Not the fact that Charlie could read, I’d suspected that for quite some time. It was the source that caught me off guard. “You’re on Facebook?” I asked with no attempt to mask my surprise or suspicion.
“Yep,” Charlie replied matter-of-factly, “figured I’d better know what people are up to. Can’t count on them to let you know with a phone call or actual conversation or some other polite Old World technique.” He then gave me a hard look, “You know when you write stuff like that, some people think you’re just bragging.”
“Oh, no,” I responded, “I was just trying to get people to see that actually doing something to help somebody in need was really more Christian than some of the other stuff people do that might make them feel religious.”
“Well,” Charlie answered, “that might be what you were after but I’m telling you what you got. At least from some people.” I wondered if Charlie himself was one of those people but I decided not to ask. Besides, there was something else on Charlie’s mind.
“Next day after I read that, I pull off on the K-120 ramp at the Highland exit and there’s a guy there with a tractor-trailer rig on the side of the road. He’s got a Bobcat on the trailer and the tractor is unhooked, pulled up about a hundred feet in front of the trailer. Made me think about that guy of yours that ran out of gas.”
“Was the driver walking up the road looking for help?” I asked. “Nah, just sitting there leaning against the trailer like he was waiting for somebody.”
“Did you try to help him fix his truck?” Charlie looked disgusted. “You think I know anything about fixing a diesel rig?” He shook his head and looked like he wanted to spit on the floor. “Sheesh, man! You know I couldn’t fix a piece of toast if somebody softened the butter and showed me which side it was supposed to go on.”
“So, what did you do?”
Charlie grinned and looked like he’d just simultaneously cured cancer, Alzheimer’s and the common cold. “I went and bought that man a Mountain Dew and a Snickers.” I pondered this for a few seconds. “The guy’s truck is broken down and you gave him a cold drink and a candy bar.”
“Exactly. If my truck was broke down on a hot day and I hadn’t had any lunch, that’s exactly what I’d want. A Mountain Dew and a Snickers bar.” Then he added, “I sure wouldn’t want me touching that truck.”
“Well, I’ll be, Charlie, I guess you have a point.”
He got up to leave, then turned and looked at me with a sudden look of suspicion, “Hey, don’t you be writing anything about me. I don’t want any of those people thinking I’m bragging.”
“Charlie,” I assured him, “if I write a word, I’ll be sure and completely change your name. They won’t have a clue. And if anybody does suspect and asks me if it was you, I’ll insist that this conversation never happened. It was a complete figment of my imagination.”
“But, Charlie…” he paused and turned back, and I said with complete sincerity, “Good on ya.”
He grinned and walked out the door.
I thought for a moment and then grinned myself. If something I wrote or said led one person to buy some stranger a cold drink and a candy bar, I haven’t wasted my life after all.