Frank Somerville is an Emmy-winning local television journalist at KTVU in Oakland, California and he’s always keen to share some good news with his audience.
In 2016, he shared a story sent to him by a young single mother whose faith in humanity was restored by the kindness of a stranger. Readers were reminded that while we often overlook people in distress because they’re “not our problem,” an act of kindness can mean the world to someone in need.
“This is Tawny Nelson with three of her four kids.
She just told me about what happened to her in Florida.
And how a 74 year old man knocking on the window of her truck has helped restore her faith in people.
(I swear I got chills when I read what happened next)”
Normally when you’re a young woman with small children in the car, a knock on the window is the last thing you want. But, in this case, Ms. Nelson was truly in need.
In her note to Somerville, she explained that at the time she was a single mother to four girls, ages 9, 5, 2, and 6 weeks and that their lives had been extremely difficult since her “ex” left.
“My truck had a flat I constantly had to air up.
The driver side window motor died.
And I needed a new alternator belt.
The truck was a mess.
And we didn’t drive anywhere unless we had to.”
It’s hard to imagine taking care of all the needs of your children without reliable access to a vehicle. Many people know the struggle and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Her story wasn’t about her life situation, per se, but about a particularly trying moment in the parking lot of a local grocery store.
Despite her truck not being in good working condition, the family needed food, so they drove 9 blocks to a Winn Dixie one evening in the pouring rain. Once Nelson loaded up her groceries and her kids, she tried to start the engine with no luck.
One of her daughters had accidentally left the light on and her battery was dead.
“My phone was also disconnected.
I have no family to speak of and was on my own.
I got out and opened my hood to be sure my battery hadn’t come loose.
But on a rainy evening, no one was willing to stop and help her.
“I must have asked more than twenty people in the course of two hours for a jump.
They all ignored me.
Not even a no.
Just acted like i didn’t exist.”
It’s easier that way, right? We ignore people all the time. We’re distrustful of their motives, or we feel like there’s nothing we can do to help. Sometimes we just choose not to deal with other people’s drama. And when we hear stories of the helpers, we assume someone else will come along and take care of it.
Nelson was lucky because, in this case, someone did save the day – but not everyone is so lucky. At the time, she probably seemed easier to ignore.
She described the rest of the scene:
“My 5 Year old was melting down.
My newborn SCREAMING, my two year old crying she was hungry, and my oldest desperately trying to help.
I was bawling and felt like the worst Mom ever.”
Then came that knock on the passenger window. She described the man on the other side of the glass as “An older gentleman (he was 74) with a cane and a bad limp.” Not necessarily a likely candidate for saving the day, but that’s precisely what he did – in more ways than one.
Nelson opened the door and he handed her a plate of chicken strips and biscuits from the deli as well as some bottles of water.
“Feed those babies and yourself young lady.
I have a tow truck on the way and my wife will be here shortly to take y’all home.”
Not only did he come through at that moment, but he returned to Nelson’s house the next morning with a mechanic who replaced the battery and alternator in her vehicle and repaired a window.
He wanted nothing for his trouble. No payment, no photos to put on Facebook to brag about his good deed, no further involvement, not even a hug – nothing. It was a good deed, plain and simple.
“When I asked what I owed the mechanic and if I could make payments he smiled telling me the older man had paid for all of it.
He said that the only payment the older man wanted was for me to never give up and keep being an amazing mom.”
It’s not often people get a favor like that with no strings attached and Nelson was overcome with emotion.
“I’ve never cried so hard in my life.
Things had been absolutely awful.
More so than I care to explain.
And without knowing us or our situation this kind man helped us in ways he will never know.”
Nelson said, “What he did revived my faith when I was falling apart.”
“I’ll never be able to thank him.
But I certainly hope one day I can do what he did for me for someone else.”
And while Nelson herself didn’t realize the post would go viral or that it would draw the attention it did (with the inevitable criticisms of her life choices from complete strangers), she couldn’t help but share it with someone. She wasn’t asking for favors or handouts, she simply wanted other people to “pay it forward” – if they were so inclined – after hearing her story.
Frank Somerville loved the story so much he couldn’t help but share it and closed his post by saying it made him want to do something similar someday:
“I hope the 74 year-old man who helped her sees this.
I hope he knows what a difference he made for Tawny.
Someday I’m going to do something like that.
I can just feel it.
And it’s going to make me so happy.
Sometimes hearing about good deeds make us want to become better people.
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