Something to Believe In

No matter how much you have, no matter how much you’ve accomplished, you need help too.

Last year, for spring break, my wife and I decided to take our kids on a trip to Washington, D.C. About 30 minutes into the trip, I realized we were low on gas, so I decided to stop at a gas station. As I was filling up the family van, I noticed a man sitting on the curb with a flat tire about 30 feet from the pumps. He was crying. He was obviously having a bad day, but it appeared to me that there was more to the story. I couldn’t help but notice he had pulled out his spare tire, but it was flat too. There are days when you feel like helping, and there are other days when you don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered” times for me. After all, I had a 10 hour drive ahead of me trapped in a van with two energetic boys.

After paying for the gas, I made a decision I will never forget. I decided to approach the man and ask him if he needed some help. His response was a poignant and profound “Don’t we all?” He said nothing else. Those three words shook me to the bone and they are three words that I will never forget. I asked about his situation and he explained that he was about 6 hours from home and he needed money for gas and a tire repair. When I asked what he was doing so far from home, he explained that he was in town to visit his children from a divorce, and that he hadn’t seen them in almost a year because they closed the plant where he’d worked for 15 years in Iowa and he just didn’t have any money right now. He spent the only money he had buying his kids hot dogs and taking them miniature golfing. He had no credit cards and only $20 in gas money to get home. He had called for a tow truck, but they wanted $60 to fix the flat tire.

He was alone, frustrated, embarrassed and scared. I could remember moments just like those in my life. Can’t we all? He was also proud. He never asked me for a dime. Luckily, I was heading on vacation and had a little cash in my pocket. I handed him $100 and told him it was a gift. He insisted on getting my address and that he would pay me back when he got back to work. We shook hands and I headed back to the car where my wife and kids interrogated me for the next 40 minutes. I never heard from him again and never really wanted to. I would have paid a counselor a lot more money for a lot less advice. After all, I’m not perfect and I’m always looking for good advice. “Don’t we all?”

Those three little words still ring true in my daily life. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you’ve accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can always help. You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all. They may be waiting on you to give them what they don’t have. You could give them a different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos that only you, through a torn world, can see. Maybe the man was just a man sitting on a curb. Maybe he was more than that.

My point is that we all need help and we can all give some help. I not only learned something myself, but was able to teach a life lesson to my boys.

When you join America’s Best Companies, we hope to help you, but, more importantly, you help other small business owners just like you, to succeed. They didn’t ask you for help, they asked us. Your membership helps fund the programs we provide to small businesses across the country. After all, there are many people out there who are looking for all the help they can get in business and life. “Don’t we all?”

James J. Tracy


America’s Best Companies, Inc.

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