Words do matter — but actions speak louder. I’ve got a story to tell you today. A story that won’t reveal the man’s identity, because he says he doesn’t want the publicity. I will tell it, even so, because our world needs to hear about such acts of kindness in the midst of constant evil and violent events that cause us to question our own humanity.
It was almost 9 p.m., about an hour from closing time, when an elderly lady walked into John’s business on Coleman Boulevard, in Mount Pleasant.
She needed directions. “If I could just get to Highway 378, I can find my way home,” she confidently stated. John once lived in Columbia, so he knew that was the main thoroughfare that took people to Sumter.
He asked a few more questions. “Where are you going?’
“Sumter, “ she replied.
“How did you get here,” John wondered.
“I drove,” she immediately responded while pointing to her SUV in the parking lot.
After a few more questions, John realized the proud lady was struggling with memory issues. He recognized the same dementia symptoms his own father exhibited before his death.
John directed the lady to a nearby table, poured her a cold glass of orange soda and called the Mount Pleasant Police Department.
As he waited for an officer to respond, he asked a few more questions.
“Do you have a phone?” It was dead.
“Do you have a charger?” The answer was no.
He inquired about phone numbers in her purse, but was assured there was nothing but business cards and such.
John was growing impatient and assumed the same tone and attitude he once directed to his father.
“Why did you do this?” John blurted out as the carbonated bubbles were still popping in the nearby orange soda.
Her answer? I hope you’re ready for this. This sweet, lost and confused lady more than 90 miles from home had a simple reply.
“I guess God wanted me to meet you.”
Driving Miss Annie
The officer soon arrived and with the help of his computer learned of some relatives in Sumter. Those relatives, however, could not come get her. The officer discovered an address, but could locate no one able to come to Mount Pleasant at that hour to return the tired and confused woman to her home.
John decided he would do it.
He called his 36-year-old son, told him he needed to follow him to Sumter and explained the circumstances. The son didn’t flinch, he said he was all-in and the two vehicles left Mount Pleasant after 10 p.m. for the hour-and-a-half drive.
John called his new friend Miss Annie. During the drive, it was Miss Annie who did most of the talking. Now it was her turn to ask some questions.
“Do you believe in Jesus? Do you pray? Do you pray for your business?”
His replies were “Yes, ma’am”, “Yes ma’am” and “Not really.”
With nothing but the dashboard lights to illuminate the interior, John could see Miss Annie give him a look. He promised her he would start praying for his business on a regular basis.
It took 90 minutes to travel the rural back roads to Miss Annie’s house. It was midnight when they arrived. Family members lived in nearby homes, but nobody came out to greet her.
Miss Annie, still dressed in her Sunday best, thanked John and his son repeatedly for getting her home and told him to remember what they’d talked about.
John and his son climbed into their pickup truck and returned to Charleston and were in their beds about 2 am.
Lost and found
Who knows why Miss Annie happened to ask for directions at John’s business on this particular night. She certainly had no reason to expect that this was the perfect place to ask for help because she’d find someone who took the time to care.
John still smiles when he thinks of that night. He also gets a little chuckle when later recalling what Miss Annie was driving — a Ford Escape.
Given the recent displays of evilness and general lack of civility that we all encounter in this world we’ve created, maybe we should say a prayer of thanks that people like John and Miss Annie are among us.
We all need to be aware of these moments that give us a chance to counter-punch violence and nastiness with love and understanding.
John did not want any recognition or publicity for his actions, and I respect that. So while I omit his true identity, his act of kindness is extraordinary. After all, how else could he have met Miss Annie?