Blue Highways Journey – Episode 22 – Helpfulness

Adam Steele was looking forward to the last journey with one of his staff. On this journey, he would be joined by Dottie Douglas, his VP of Information Technology.

As usual, the trip was a renewal of American values. One story from this trip was especially memorable. It concerned a young Asian-American woman who was in her eighth month of pregnancy. Adam and Dottie met Jill in one of the towns they visited. The story she had to tell brought joy to their hearts.

Jill and her boyfriend had broken up, and she was driving across country to return to her parents’ home. They would be very shocked to see her and upset that she was pregnant.

Jill decided to stop at this small town to spend the night and get something to eat. But first, she needed gas. She drove into the first gas station she saw. It only had one pump, and she noticed immediately a sign saying: “Sorry, but we only take cash”. Since she only had five dollars in cash, she realized that the gas wouldn’t take her very far. She was shocked when a woman came to her car and asked her how much gas she needed. She could never remember having someone pump gas for her before. She gave the lady her $5 and asked about the restroom. That was her second shock. The restroom was spotless and, in fact, was better than what Jill had in her own apartment. There was even a dispenser for hand lotion, which Jill applied to her belly. As Jill returned to her car, she and the attendant had a nice conversation about her pending arrival. Jill asked about a local restaurant and as she drove away, she was shocked again. She had a full tank of gas in her car. She decided to find a restaurant.

The restaurant was nothing fancy, but the service was excellent. She ordered a healthy meal and had a very pleasant conversation with her server. As she got ready to leave, her server brought a bag to her. “We prepared some healthy snacks for your travels. By the way, there is no charge for your meal. One of our regulars paid your bill. That happens a lot around here.

Next, Jill checked into a local motel. Again, she was surprised by the quality of room. It looked nothing like a normal motel. The bed had a homemade quilt. There was a rocking chair that was perfect for her condition. The bathroom was immaculate and again, she found hand lotion. But what really surprised Jill was when she got a call from the front desk: “My brother is a doctor in town, and when I mentioned you looked pretty worn down, he said he would like to check you out. Would you see him in your room?

As Jill started to go to sleep, she could never recall such a series of kind acts. “This is where I want to raise my baby, she thought.”

As they began their journey home, Adam commented to Dottie: “I think we found the home for our new call center. I would like you to return and make this happen. And would you keep in touch with Jill and let her know that we want her to play a prominent role? Also, work with the local school system to help develop the technical skills we need. I really like the culture of helpfulness we found here. Goodness knows that’s something that isn’t that easy to find today.

We shouldn’t be shocked by acts of helpfulness, but we often are. Helpfulness doesn’t involve grand gestures but are simple acts at a time of need. Have we lost our ability to be helpful? Hopefully not. But what we seem to have lost is our ability to see where we can be helpful. We are often in a rush and a need for a helpful act often goes unnoticed.

Because acts of helpfulness have become rare, there is a tendency to associate acts of helpfulness with having an ulterior motive. We often can’t accept an act of kindness for just what it is. In the same way, we might be deterred from an act of helpfulness because we don’t want the recipient to think we have some motive in mind.

True acts of helpfulness are private moments not done for public recognition. There is a genuineness to the act of helpfulness that needs no acknowledgment other than a smile, an expression of relief, or a heartfelt thank you.

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“I can’t help thousands. I can only help only the one who stands before me.”
– Mother Teresa

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