I go to Abbott’s General Store every day on my way home from doing my chores at the farm. It is where I get my newspaper, my news of Danby and my daily affirmation that being part of a community is good.

A week ago, as I was paying for my paper Cindy who manages the store said to me, “I think that fellow out there could use your help. He’s the driver of that 18-wheeler that’s parked alongside the road. He’s run out of gas and he needs a ride to an ATM to get money to pay for fuel. Could you help him?”

That’s an easy one, pretty much of a no brainer for me. I grabbed my paper and walked outside  and went straight up to him. ” Hi, I’m David,” I said extending my hand, “I understand you need a ride to get some cash.”

“Hello sir, I’m Adrian,” he said shaking my hand, “no I just need some diesel. I have $10,”  opening his wallet to show me, “what I need is a gas can to get the fuel from the pump to my truck. The gas card I have doesn’t work here so I am kind of stuck.”

I looked at the truck and the pumps and I thought of where I could find a gas can. Then I looked at Adrian. He was a nice looking man, bordering on handsome with a round face and easy smile and flecks of grey hair in his short black hair. He had spent the night in his truck and now he was waiting to hear back from his mom who was going to try to wire him some money.

“I’m coming from Burlington and heading to Philadelphia to deliver my load and then I’m heading down to Miami to be with my mom for Christmas.” Do you know where I can get a gas can?”

“Adrian, $10 isn’t going to get you very far and there is nowhere near here where you can pick up a wire transfer so first of all please take this money. It will help you.”

“No sir, I couldn’t take your money. I’m a marine,” he said opening his wallet again to show me his active duty ID card, “I’ll be okay. Just need a gas can.”

“Adrian, let me tell you something that I have finally learned after 60 years. Being generous benefits me more than it does you. I know you don’t fully understand this but you are just going to have to believe me. I am helping myself more than I am helping you by giving you this money. Please take it.”

He looked at me like I was a bit crazy but took the money and then shook my hand again. “Thank you sir. Can I get your address so I can pay you back? I’m good for it.”

“I know you are, Adrian. But by letting me help you, you have already paid me back. If you want to do more get to you mom’s safely and enjoy your Christmas with her. That’s all the pay back I need.”

He gave me a big hug and said thank you a couple of hundred more times. “I’ll tell my mama about you.”

It took me a few minutes to scrounge up a 5 gallon pail and a funnel and I came back to Abbott’s to hand them to Adrian. He was just getting off the phone. “Yes, I’ll be there for Christmas, a nice man is helping me out. See you soon. I love you, mama.”

I went on my way, back to my house to scrap the farm off me and to start my day. About a hour later I return to Abbott’s for a taste of chocolate and the truck and Adrian were gone.  The pail and funnel were by the door waiting for me.

I went inside and asked Cindy how Adrian had made out. “Oh, he got going straight away. Dad helped him with his fuel lines but otherwise it didn’t take him long to get going.”

“Good, glad to hear it.”

“Did you know he was a Marine?” Cindy said.

“Yes, he told me and showed me his ID card. He was a very nice man. Very polite.”

“Did he tell you what was in the truck?”

“No, I never thought of asking.”

“Well, you did a very nice thing. He was driving to Philadelphia to deliver a truckful of  Toys for Tots.”

I smiled. That’s my gift for the holidays, I thought. I didn’t really do anything. I spent 15 minutes of my day helping a stranger. He was the one delivering the toys, I just helped him on his way. And yet I got the biggest gift.

Pretty amazing the power of a grungy old pail and dirty old funnel.