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To the “little” heroes

This is all about the unsung heroes.  The ones who do the small things that change lives, with no expectation of repayment.

When I was nineteen, I was in a far-away town, going to college, driving an old rickety car.  I was pulled over one day by a police officer.

“What’s wrong, officer?”
“You have no brake lights.”
“oh, gosh, that’s dangerous.”
“Pull over into this parking lot.” 

So, I pulled into this parking lot and he followed behind me.  “It’s probably a fuse. The fuse block is located here.”  points to the area below my steering column.

Sure enough, it was a fuse.  He could have given me a ticket.  Instead he chose to help me.  This would have been in Winona, Minnesota in 1987 or 1988.  I still remember this small act of kindness.  Wherever he is, I want to thank him.

One of the “little” heroes.  He didn’t have to help me.  He didn’t have to tell me about car fuses.  It took him about ten minutes out of his day.  But he showed a stranger a small kindness.

Also in the same general time-period, perhaps a little later, 1988 or 1989, I was newly married, also in Winona, Minnesota.  I was not mechanically savvy, and my husband, less so.  We lived in a little trailer on the outskirts of town, we had paid 2500 for it, fully furnished, and it was a wedding gift from his mother.  We were dirt poor.  One day in the middle of winter, the furnace wouldn’t work.  I happened to be at a friend’s house babysitting.  Brian called me at Tammy’s house.

“the furnace is dead, there is no heat.  Stay there for tonight.”  

I drive there in the morning.  He’s sleeping in the kitchen using the oven for heat.  We scrape together all the spare change and cash we have.  We come up with about $30.00.  He has to go to work.  He tells me to go and buy a space heater.

I go to the hardware store.  Not knowing anything about electricity, I buy the best space heater $30.00 would buy.  (hey, it was thirty years ago, almost!)

I get home.  Take the space heater out of the box.  It’s got a weird plug on it, and I can’t plug it into any of our outlets!  (wrong voltage, I’m imagining).

I take it back to the hardware store in tears.  But I know nothing about electricity, so I can’t figure out what space heater I need, or what to do.  I was pacing the aisles and crying for probably a half hour or so.

“Ma’am?  What’s wrong?”

I blurted out my situation.

“hang on, I get off work in an hour, I’ll come over.”

He came to our trailer, with an electrical meter, and figured out our furnace problem, and asked NOTHING in exchange.  Just a thank-you and a hug, was all he wanted.

He was a “little” hero.  He didn’t donate tons of money, he didn’t give his life.  He gave an hour of his day to a stranger who had no means to pay him back.

A few years later.  I was a second year steamfitter apprentice.  My car wouldn’t start.  It was towed to a garage, I hesitate to say which one, in case I get somebody in trouble.  But it was a large-ish garage on the far east side of Madison, Wisconsin.  The mechanic, a younger man, recognized that I was desperate, and couldn’t afford to pay much money, took me aside, gave me a great big long screwdriver, and showed me how to jumper the starter solenoid, so I could start the car.

“Just bring it back here for me to fix when you can afford it.”

For six months or better I was starting that car with that screwdriver.

Another “little” hero.

To all of you, I hope this goes viral (it probably won’t since not many people follow this blog), but if you see this and recognize yourself……


Twenty, twenty-five years later, I still remember that little kindness you showed me.



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