It was the hottest day of the summer, a record-breaking 102 degrees, hot and humid, sweltering even in the shade. I was driving back from visiting my older brother and his new baby. In the blistering heat, I could see the blacktop bubbling. I’d never been so grateful for air conditioning before. I cruised happily along County Route 2, which wound through the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert. Then I saw that a car had broken down up ahead. It was the ﬁrst car I’d seen in about half an hour. In the distance, a few hundred feet ahead of the car, I saw a stooped ﬁgure walking with a gas can in his hands. There was nothing around for miles. There was no way this person was going to make it to the nearest town, which was a good twenty miles away, in this desert heat.
I’d always been told to stay away from strangers, but I thought if there ever was a time to do a good deed, this was it. Besides, as I neared the ﬁgure, I could tell that it was an elderly man, and I thought there was little chance he’d do me any harm. So I slowed down and pulled over. “Need a lift?” I asked.
Now that I could see him clearly, it was obvious the old man was already in trouble. He’d only walked a hundred yards or so, and he looked as if he was going to pass out any moment. “I’d be most grateful, young lady, if you could help me get to a gas station,” he said slowly. “I seem to be out of petroleum.”
“No problem,” I replied. “I’m headed that way.” He climbed slowly into the car and I pulled back out onto the road. “Not a good day for car trouble, huh?” I asked. “Indeed,” he replied. He was silent for a few minutes while his body temperature normalized. I offered him a soda from the cooler I’d packed for my four-hour ride. He accepted it gratefully. We made a little small talk then, but just a little. He seemed to prefer the silence.
As we neared the gas station, I asked him if he would like a ride back to his car. “I don’t have to be home until late this afternoon,” I told him. “It’s no trouble.” “I know it is quite out of your way,” he replied. “I would be most grateful.” He paused. “And just where is home, young lady?” “Elmwood,” I replied. I introduced myself as Emily Hampton and found out that he was Edward Gilliam. “By the way, my name is Emily. Emily Hampton.” “You’re a very kind lady, Ms. Hampton. My name is Edward Gilliam.” Edward ﬁlled up his gas can and I drove him back to his car. We ﬁlled up his tank, and I followed him back into town just to make sure he was ok. At the gas station, I beeped and waved and continued north towards home. Edward waved and nodded his thanks.
The next morning, the doorbell rang. My mom answered. “Emily!” she hollered. “Get down here!” I came down the stairs and saw a giant bouquet of ﬂowers. They were stunning. A small note was attached:
“Dearest Emily, thank you for your incredible kindness yesterday. You just might have saved my life, and I am eternally grateful. You reminded an old man of how much beauty there is in this world. Yours, Edward Gilliam.”