They don’t know when he started, but somewhere along the way he did. Maybe it began when he’d give handfuls of money to the homeless man at the Circle K.
Every morning after filling his car, he’d give spare change to the man with the wiry beard. A few bucks here. A few there.
They became friends. Their conversations got longer. Good talks were appreciated by both parties.
One day, he decided to take the man to lunch. They ate sandwiches on a curb. It did something to him.
Soon, he was looking for people to give money to. Anyone. Then there were the flat tire changes.
That all started by accident. The first time he pulled over it was for a woman and her newborn. Something made him do it.
He took care of her car while she rocked her baby. She was late for work. She tried to pay him. Instead, he paid her.
It embarrassed the woman.
“This isn’t a gift,” he pointed out. “It’s a thank-you.”
“For being a good mother.”
From then on, he carried orange cones in his trunk and a hydraulic jack. Sometimes, he changed three tires a week. Sometimes more. Changing tires became his thing.
Then there was the time at the fast-food restaurant. He was there to get a to-go supper with his wife, on their way out of town.
He noticed a family enter behind him. There were six or seven of them, dressed in faded clothes. He couldn’t quit looking at them.
When he paid the cashier for his order, he left two hundred dollars and whispered, “See that family? Tell’em their meal is free BEFORE they order.”
“But,” said the cashier. “You gave me too much.”
“Keep it,” he said.
He slipped out the side door.
And that’s how he came to start leaving bills at cash registers all over town. We’re talking supermarkets, gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops.
Speaking of coffee. He was in Nashville, Tennessee, once on business. He was downtown. A girl was sitting on the sidewalk, holding a cardboard sign.
“Sir,” she said. “I only need one more quarter to have enough for a cup of coffee.”
“Coffee?” he said. “Isn’t there anything else you need more than coffee?”
“Sure,” she said. “But I haven’t tasted coffee in a long time. I just miss it sometimes.”
She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five years old.
He went inside a Starbucks and purchased a gift card. He handed the card to her. That card had a lot of money on it.
I’m only scratching the surface. There are bigger and better stories about things he’s done. Most stories nobody knows, not even his wife—who told these to me.
There was a young widow without a vehicle, who inherited a used van for her birthday. A foster child who received a new wardrobe from an anonymous donor. The single mother who got a laptop to help her finish college.
The homeless man who needed a bus ticket to see his daughter in Miami. The elderly lady who needed a wheelchair ramp built onto her mobile home.
He remained anonymous. And his bank account was never fat. He lived in a small home.
Men with hearts like his aren’t often noticed in this world. If you’d seen him in a crowd, you might not have even looked twice.
His funeral reception was well attended.
But his homecoming party was even bigger.