Recognizing a Good Samaritan Story in Rural America

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Emergencies are simply opportunities to help our fellow human beings.
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Take the time to perform an act to help someone out of a jam. They'll never forget you.

Recently while reading an article by Justin Horner on The New York Times website, I was reminded about one of the best parts of being human. I’m not talking about the miracles of music or art. Nor the joys of a sunrise that sets the eastern sky on fire or the delights of preparing an amazing meal and sharing it with someone you love. I’m talking about that rare bit of warmth that makes your heart glow when you encounter an opportunity to do the right thing.

In the article, Horner recounts a heartwarming Good Samaritan tale – in this case, he was on the receiving end. Long story short, he had a flat tire on a busy freeway (in a borrowed car with no jack), and after being unable to help himself, he placed a sign in the vehicle’s window with this simple message: “Need A Jack.” Tow trucks passed him by without so much as a glance, as did thousands of other motorists. In time, a van stopped – this van was a little rough around the edges and contained a migrant worker family – and only the young daughter spoke English. After considerable effort, Horner and the man who was driving the van got the tire changed. Here’s where it gets really interesting. Horner tried to give the man a $20 bill – he refused it. So Horner next slipped the money quietly to the man’s wife. As he started back to his car, the girl asked if he was hungry and handed him a tamale. Back at his car, Horner opened the tamale to find his $20 bill. When he attempted to give the man the money again, that migrant worker conjured up this much English: “Today you, tomorrow me.” And then he drove off.

Earlier this year, I was in a hurry to tend to an animal emergency at the farm. I had neglected to put gas in my pickup before I got to the office and completely forgot that I needed it before hitting the highway. The truck sputtered to a stop about three miles from home – close but too far at the same time. I jumped out and started walking with my thumb in the air. Not even a minute later a well-worn pickup pulled over. The farmer and his young son had seen my truck and knew I needed help. Needless to say, that was one of the best rides home I have ever experienced, and, no, he didn’t want any payment – he said the privilege of having the opportunity to do the right thing was all the payment he required, and I knew he was right.

Many years ago, while travelling between Tucumcari, New Mexico, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I pulled into an unfamiliar fuel stop. I noticed a bit of commotion when I went inside to pay. There was some sneering from behind the counter and tears on my side of it. A distraught young mother needed gas to get home, with no money to pay. I was hauling a load of old tractors so I happened to have 15 gallons of the stuff in cans. I gave it to her and never looked back – feeling the guilt that a North Dakota boy feels about feeling too good for doing the right thing.

Whether you’re planting your first garden, planning a move to the country, or building a beehive, we’d love to know what you’re up to this season. And if you have any Good Samaritan experiences of your own to share, please send them my way (

See you in July.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.