Rebecca Frech is the author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us, co-host of the popular radio show/podcast The Visitation Project, Catholic speaker, and writes the award-winning blog Shoved to Them. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their seven children and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @shovedtothem.
I had a whirlwind trip to Houston not too long ago—Dallas to Houston and back again, all in the same day. I’m not as young as I used to be, and doing that four-hour drive twice was completely exhausting.
That’s why I stopped at the Whataburger in Corsicana, Texas—because I was tired and needed to stretch, and they have that A-1 burger that I love. The reasons don’t really matter here; I was stopping at Whataburger, and I always stop at Whataburger when the fates align and time allows. Reasons aren’t necessary. I’m deeply sorry for those of you who don’t have one near you. It’s pretty much what Heaven will taste like. That’s one thing in life that I know for sure.
It was after 7:30 when I pulled in, and there was only one other car in the parking lot. I didn’t really look at it as I walked into the building, but as I walked back out again I couldn’t miss it.
The car, an older Oldsmobile, was strategically positioned underneath one of the street lights which illuminated its corner of the parking lot. Its innards were spread around it in a tight half-circle which had been carefully laid out on an old oil-stained towel. Sitting beside the Olds, head in hands, was the owner.
I tossed my food into my car, and walked over to him. I’m pretty handy with a wrench, can hold a flashlight with the best of them, and had a cell to call anyone he needed. I figured I was probably as good as it was going to get.
“Hi,” I said, “do you need any help?”
He turned his tired gaze towards me and said, “My car broke down, and I thought I could fix it. I need to get home tonight, and I’m $26.14 short for the belt.”
He took a deep breath and then “I’m a vet, ma’am. Served in Desert Storm. Here, let me show you my ID card so you know I’m telling the truth. I live in Katy, Texas and I just need to get home tonight” poured out of him as he pulled a card from his wallet. “I don’t need food, and I’m not begging, but if you could loan me $26.14, I’ll mail you a check just as soon as I can repay you.”
I looked at the desperation in his face, and almost cried with him. We’ve been there, my husband and I, desperate and broken down on the side of the road with no idea how to afford the parts we needed. It’s a hopeless and helpless feeling.
“I don’t know how much cash I have,” I told him, “but you can have all of it. You don’t have to mail me anything.” I grabbed the wallet from my car and walked back over to him. I had a $20 and a mess of loose change.
“$26.14?” I asked. “Was that with or without tax? Let’s see if I have enough for you.” When his face fell, I knew that he’d forgotten about sales tax. I quick figured in my head that he really needed right around $29 for the rest of the belt. I offered up a silent prayer and then poured the coins onto the hood of his car and we began counting. All told, the change in my wallet came to $9.28, so I handed that and my $20 to him. I’d had almost to the penny the amount of money he needed.
I turned to walk away when a voice deep inside of me said, “Pray with him.” Now, I’m not the kind of girl who prays with strangers. It’s a foreign thing to me to intrude on them in such a personal way, but the impulse to do so just wouldn’t be ignored that night. So, I turned back around and asked him, “Would you like for me to pray with you?”
His eyes got large and he nodded. I took his hands in mine (and if you know me then you know how weird that is for me) and I began to pray out loud for his safety and the successful repair of his car. I prayed for all kinds of things in that Whataburger parking lot as tears slipped down his cheeks.
When we said “Amen,” he swiped at his face with the back of his hand and said, “Ma’am, when I called my wife to tell her I’d broken down, now my wife is a believer, you see… well she said that she was going to pray that God send a Christian person to help me out, and that that was how I’d know the help was from Him. I don’t know what else to tell you, but that you’re the answer to my wife’s prayer.”
And then he hugged me and turned to walk across the street to buy the belt which would get him home to the good Christian woman whose prayers had sent me to her husband’s aid.