God put me together funny. My arms are too long. My legs come to my neck. My feet are the size of waterskis. This makes it hard to shop for things like, say, clothes.
I’m getting a sport jacket for a wedding. The man taking my measurements is named Moe. I know this because it’s on his nametag. He is sturdy-built, caramel skin, middle-aged.
He tells me to hold my arms outward while he pays close attention to how uniquely disproportionate I am.
I’ve met Moe once before. He remembers me.
He recalls that I am an Alabama football fan. He remembers that the last time I visited this store, I was buying clothes for a funeral in South Georgia. He remembers that I always have dog hair on me.
“I got a good memory,” he says. “I was a fire-medic. We had to remember everything ‘cause we couldn’t take notes.”
A fireman-paramedic. A soul who is as equally at home in a yellow NOMEX suit as he is EMT work blues. A man who has removed nine-year-olds from burning mobile homes. Who has resuscitated ninety-year-olds.
A cotton-picking hero.
“I worked in Greene County, Georgia,” he says. “I’d still be doing it if my family hadn’t needed me here. I miss it.”
Georgia credentials don’t count within Florida state lines. The state won’t let him work without a brand new certificate—which requires more schooling. Florida wants its pound of cash.
“Costs ten grand to get certified,” he said. “I can’t afford to start school all over again. Gotta earn a living.”
So he’s fitting people for suits. The same hands that once saved a drowning girl, or a boy with a gut-shot, are now patting my shoulders to make sure I have enough room.
“Can still remember the first time someone died in my arms,” he tells me. “I remember the smells, my surroundings, the way I felt… It never leaves you.”
It was December. A kid rode a motorcycle through traffic. He sped between two delivery vans. He lost control. The boy bounced between the vehicles and got crushed by interstate traffic.
“I held him,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, this is someone my age. This guy could be ME, you know?”
He says the victim took his last breath while he cradled him. And even though Moe has seen a lot of death, it’s taken years to get over that kid.
“But that’s when the lightbulb went off,” he goes on. “Just knew I’s meant to help people. Every day.
“My life just don’t feel right until I’ve done good. No matter where I am, I keep my eye out for one person who needs something. Anything. Even if just to say, ‘Hey man, I’m here for you.’”
I know we’re strangers, Moe.
But today that person was me.