Pensacola, Florida—a long line of vehicles at a gas station. I am waiting behind a woman and her daughter. She holds a baby in her arm.
The gas pump is not accepting her card. She keeps trying. No luck.
There’s a man in a car behind her. A very nice, German car that costs more than a new liver.
He shouts at her. He honks. “C’mon!”
The world has gone crazy. It’s mass hysteria. Hurricane Irma is coming, and some people are losing their cotton-picking minds.
The woman hands her baby to her daughter—who looks like a fifth-grader.
The woman walks inside to see the cashier. She is gone a few moments before returning with her face in her hands. She looks like she’s about to cry.
“My wallet!” she shouts to her daughter. “I don’t have it!”
Without skipping a beat, the young girl reaches into her jean pocket, and hands her mother a handful of dollars.
The lady’s dam breaks. If tears were nickels, she’d be a millionaire.
The girl gives the money to her mother with a brave face. And I can’t see how much she gives, but it’s a wad.
More honking from Mercedes-Man. He slams his hands on his wheel.
The woman fills her car with gas. The daughter rocks the baby in her arms.
When the woman finishes, they crawl into a dilapidated Ford and drive away. Their car makes a grinding noise, like it needs a new axle. And I’m fairly certain she’s leaking oil.
Mercedes pulls in behind. He whips forward and jams his brakes. He leaps out, slams his door, and tries the pump. But something’s wrong.
He cusses, then marches inside.
He returns, accompanied by the attendant. The clerk places a yellow baggy over his gas-pump handle.
Out of service.
Cars are honking at Mister Mercedes. The man pulls into the next pump, behind a van. He waits.
When it’s his turn to pump. Nothing again. Another out-of-service baggy. In a few minutes, there are yellow baggies on all the pump handles, and it’s game over.
The man is a mess. He pulls into a parking spot and now he’s the one who looks like he’s going to cry.
A white truck pulls behind him—lawnmowers on the back. Two gray-headed men jump out. They are lean, covered in tattoos, and grass clippings.
They approach the man.
I overhear the man say he’s out of gas.
One of the tattooed men opens the truck and muscles a red, five-gallon gas can out. He unscrews the Mercedes gas cap, and empties the jug. He retrieves another red tank. He empties it, too. Ten gallons.
The man offers to pay them. They decline. Instead, they shake the man’s hand and give him a “God bless you, sir.”
Listen, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming days. They say Hurricane Irma is bigger than the entire width of Alabama and Florida. Maybe it is. But wherever you are today, God bless you.
And most of all…
God, bless that girl little and her mother.
Dana Britt - September 6, 2017 12:50 pm
Another heart-warming, thought-provoking post–thank you!
Jan - September 6, 2017 12:58 pm
bob baggott - September 6, 2017 1:00 pm
we are in the path of Irma, thanks you Sean for the writings. They are helping to keep an eye beyond the storm to where sacred things are happening all around.
Jeannie - September 6, 2017 4:10 pm
Praying for you, Bob, and your loved ones.
Donna Holifield - September 6, 2017 1:01 pm
Oh my goodness!
Bobbie - September 6, 2017 1:16 pm
A thousand “Amens”…..be safe .
Kristee - September 6, 2017 1:39 pm
There will always be the self-centered fools but as for your story, being the 35th car in line at Tom Thumb in Gulf Breeze yesterday, we were the selfless. As cars pulled off from the pump people were turning around telling the next car in line “God Bless You & Stay Safe”. Some even held the pump still on their dime and let the next fella fill up and said “I’m paying in forward my brother, be blessed”. Many were in tears but it was tears of joy & kindness for our neighbors and strangers just praying it all turns out for the best.
Marty from Alabama - September 6, 2017 2:12 pm
It is not always how much you have, it’s what you do with it. The daughter did more than Mr. Mercedes could ever imagine. And the tattooed lawn care men, they could have owned a Mercedes, if they were that kind. God bless “those kind.” They hold the world in an upright position.
Thank you, Sean, for reminding us of the right way to act, regardless of the situation.
Jacque - September 6, 2017 2:26 pm
And God bless you, for having a heart.
Connie Griggs - September 6, 2017 2:42 pm
I surely hope that Mercedes Man has had the opportunity to read this. My heart kept hoping that he was going to help Mama. My other hope is that he realizes that the Lawnmower guys gave him their livelihood! Lord, help this WORLD!
Thanks for sharing!
Jack Quanstrum - September 6, 2017 2:45 pm
Amen to the Tenth degree. Beautiful story of goodness and God’s grace. Peace be with everyone! Shalom!
Janet Mary Lee - September 6, 2017 2:48 pm
Disaster brings out the worst and the best of us all. Thank you for giving us the best!
Continued prayers for all in Irma’s path.
Maxine Cockerill - September 6, 2017 2:48 pm
Yes, the little girl deserves a lot of credit and so does her mother for having raised her to be so responsible. The man in the Mercedes will hopefully appreciate the generosity of the lawn guys who are generally check to check theselves. God Bless them all and you too Sean.
JeanBean - September 6, 2017 2:53 pm
When I got to the part about the pumps being out for Mr. Mercedes I thought, “Karma.” Mankind surprises me. Being in Florida right now, people are in a state of preoccupied hurried stress. In general, I pray we return to a kinder, gentler time of a few years ago. May God bless everyone with protection and comfort in the path of Irma.
Janis - September 6, 2017 2:54 pm
It’s pretty amazing how a shared dilemma becomes an “equalizer”. A sense of entitlement has no place in the gas lines. I think that impatient fellow was presented with a priceless gift that I hope he continually “pays forward”.
Pat - September 6, 2017 3:01 pm
I pray that Mr. Mercedes listened carefully as God was talking to him! But if you’re not listening, it’s hard to hear what He says………………..
Trudy :) - September 6, 2017 3:01 pm
My God bless them all and all those in the path of another storm. Sometimes nature’s storm is less destructive than the emotional storm one goes through.
Blessings to you, Sean, for “the light at the end of the tunnel”….your writings and perspectives.
Randall Bailey - September 6, 2017 3:02 pm
They should’ve taken the man’s money.
Summer - September 6, 2017 3:12 pm
This morning while watching the Irma forecast, our 6th grader began angsting aloud over the very slight possibility Irma could come up through the Alabama gulf coast and slam into Montgomery. In the 35 plus years we’ve lived in said 180 miles inland city, we’ve only been impacted by hurricanes a few times, and even then just inconvenienced – a few days without power, shredded roofs, downed fences and such.
Our son has never experienced a hurricane on any level. But he’s seen a few frantic hurricane forecasts. And lots of news footage of flooding and looting and homelessness and misery. So with Harvey still fresh on his absorbent little mind, he was speculating on all the bad things that could happen to us if that big angry red, yellow and green pinwheel drifted northwestward.
That’s when I saw a teaching moment. The weather guy was pointing to the tiny hole in the middle of Irma… and the tinier little islands inside that hole… and I reminded our son there were people THERE. Right now. Kids like him were experiencing a reality he never has and most likely never will. Their parents have nowhere to take them to safety. So instead of spending our precious before school/work family time worrying about something that hasn’t happened to us and likely never will, we prayed for those island people this morning. And we prayed for those of you rushing to escape harm’s way. And we prayed for those still suffering from the impact of Harvey. And we thanked God that we’ve been spared and are, for now, most likely safe from any weather harm. And we asked Him to help us not be anxious about anything but in all things, with prayer and thanksgiving, to take our concerns to Him.
Then we speculated a little on why God allows horrible storms like Harvey and Irma… but with no real answers that would satisfy a super smart 11 year old.
But now after school I can tell him about a desperate mom and her selfless daughter, about how they received just enough just in time, and about Mercedes man and the two tattooed angels who provided him with a tank full of undeserved grace… all in the face of a pending storm. And there it is — another teaching moment. God bless you, Sean. Y’all stay safe.
Tamera Moody - September 6, 2017 3:19 pm
Excellent job, Momma! If it would make your son feel better, let him make a Hurricane Kit! Bless you!
Ben W - September 6, 2017 3:46 pm
^ This…thank you Summer and thanks, as always Sean, for your continued exploitation of the good side of humanity that offers a needed respite from the angst and woes of the media and their exploitation of the bad side (if it bleeds, it leads). May God provide the grace and means for all impacted by Irma and those who continue to recover and begin the reassembly of their lives in the aftermath of Harvey.
Dolores Fort - September 6, 2017 6:07 pm
God bless you, Summer. Wonderful teaching. You are raising a son who will one day be an angel to someone in need.
Norma - September 6, 2017 6:28 pm
Yes, these are the stories we share with our children. Teachable moments.
Tamera Moody - September 6, 2017 3:15 pm
Stay safe, my friend! Keep writing as long as you can. It’s probably as much of an outlet for you as it is a help for those of us who are worried about family and friend down there.
Sandra Marrar - September 6, 2017 3:18 pm
Amen! Keep safe.
Jeannie - September 6, 2017 4:06 pm
Amen! And God’s Blessings to all of those in the path of this monster. And praying for you Sean, as you help us remember that it is all about the people not the hysteria brought on by the bobbleheads in news.
Mike Ashbaugh - September 6, 2017 4:37 pm
Sean that one got me right there!!!!! I’m not a guy with a Mercedes, but I have been that impatient jerk!!!! Man I am sorry to all the men and women out there that I have been this way to. Maybe I learned a lesson today. I hope it sinks in to my thick scull. God bless everyone in the way of Irma. I am
Heading down to Pensacola to see my daughter on Friday
Peg - September 6, 2017 5:01 pm
In all the turmoil and chaos, GOODNESS does show its face! Blessings be with all the hurricane victims! And anyone else who is facing a dilemma……
Mary Anne - September 6, 2017 5:33 pm
Thanks again for a lovely story, Sean. As I sit here, smack dab in the midst of Pensacola…
Stressed – like all my neighbors. Watching the weather news too often. Praying for our safety and for the safety of others in the path of this terrible storm. Preparing to the extent that we are able.
…. I am reminded that there is just only so much that mere mortals can do when faced with a hurricane bearing down in our direction. However. We CAN use common sense. We CAN use calm voices when dealing with scared children. We CAN help our neighbors. We CAN be kind and generous to others who are in the same boat with us. We CAN have Faith that He is in control. We CAN pray.
Melodie - September 6, 2017 6:28 pm
There are good people everywhere. I hope Mercedes man realizes that, now, after the way he reacted to the woman and her childrens’ misfortune, she was meant to get the last drop of gas. He was meant to be taught a good, life’s lesson.
Thank you, again, Sean.
Everyone hunker down for this ‘Irma-Gerd!’ hurricane!!
Karen Irby - September 6, 2017 6:36 pm
Oh, Sean, you break my heart, but in such a good way! I’m a new fan of yours, thanks to Helen Moseley of Mobile, AL, and I love your columns. This story particularly touches my heart. How many times have I been impatient, only to find myself in those shoes soon after? We all need reminders like this to help us be patient, loving and kind to others, because our turn will surely come! God bless you, and thanks for sharing your experiences!
Judy McInnis - September 6, 2017 7:26 pm
Another one for the heart! Between Harvey, the fires out west and now Irma, and nuclear bombs perhaps aimed at our country, things can seem overwhelming. Lesson learned…I can’t change mother nature, but, I can do my part to help someone. Kindness came to the
“jerk” in the form of two extra containers of gas. Bless that man that his heart will change and he will pass that kindness on to others. But most, God, please bless that mother with her children. It seems as if she may have reached her breaking point. Last Lord, help me to pay it forward when it is not expected or deserved…that is what you have done for us.
Pat Byers - September 6, 2017 9:47 pm
well said Judy McInnis. Well said. Help us all to pay it forward, especially when not expected ..or deserved.
Edith - September 6, 2017 9:23 pm
Be safe, GOD bless you and keep you safe if Irma comes your way.
If it does not go your way but heads across the Gulf, God bless me, Texas and all of us here.
Shirley J Brown - September 6, 2017 10:28 pm
Patricia Gibson - September 7, 2017 12:38 am
Prayers lifted for all!
Marsha - September 7, 2017 12:40 am
Hugs and love and prayers that God keeps you and yours safe. Love you Sean, you keep my chin up in this awful mess of a world. You show us where the light and the love are.
Beth - September 7, 2017 2:04 am
Do you think Mercedes-Man learned anything today? I love your blog. Stories from the south that warm the heart it does not get any better! Thank you for sharing, Beth
Tim Parker - September 7, 2017 12:21 pm
Sometimes God will give you a lesson in humility. Pray Mr. Mercedes opened his heart and learned from it.
kathy burgess - September 8, 2017 3:09 am