A Black Diamond Earring, A Heart of Gold

Yesterday, I met my hero. I left the house and my car kept pestering me with flashing lights and beeping sounds. Hey, you–your tire pressure is low, you should probably get it checked out. Hurried, frantic, and sniffling through a nasty cold, I searched for a gas station with an air pump. I found one, deposited six quarters, and then struggled to remove the air valve cap as my four minutes ticked by. Defeated, I called my boyfriend to ask what to do, and he suggested I go inside the convenient store and ask an attendant for help. Enter Jerry, the Chevron handyman.

Jerry was an older gentleman with a beaming smiling that starkly contrasted his dark skin. The lanky man with perfect posture approached me and asked, “How can I help you, doll?” The statement that would usually come across as creepy felt sincere and paternal. I fumbled through explaining my situation, using verbiage like “the tire air screw won’t come off,” but he understood what I meant.

As Jerry went to grab a pair of pliers, my boyfriend showed up. He had turned around on his way to work to help me. I gave his a kiss on the cheek and told him that I had someone helping me. As Jerry walked me across the parking lot  to my car, my boyfriend drove past, and smiled.

Jerry asked me about my day and I said, in a somewhat deflated tone, that it was going alright. When I asked him the same, his smile somehow widened and he responded, “Today is a great day! There are no good days or bad days–everyday is a great day, if you want it to be!” As I placed one foot in front of the other and dug my hands deeper into my coat pockets, I looked up at his black diamond earring catching the early morning rays and smiled. “Jerry,” I responded, “that is the best kind of attitude to have.”

Once he knew what he was working with, Jerry sent me to sit at the table inside the convenience store where I could keep toasty while he worked. “I’m from Michigan,” he insisted, “and I can tell that you’re not.” I appreciated the honesty, and the slight (and humorous) jab.

Within five minutes, Jerry walked in and handed me the air valve cap and asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I thanked him for his help and his kindness, insisted that was all that I needed. That small interaction changed the entire trajectory of my day. Jerry reminded me to be grateful, even on days where nothing seems to go as planned.

Later, when recalling the story, I learned that Jerry had been working there for well over a decade. My boyfriend knows Jerry well and felt confident driving away when he saw me walking alongside the old man.

The experience makes me want to be a better person–the kind of person who can find joy, even in the face of adversity; the kind of person who goes above and beyond to help others feel worthy, cared for, and inspired. I can tell that Jerry is a positive, radiant person simply because he chooses to be; he is a reminder to me and everyone he meets that we, too, can choose how we respond to both positive and challenging situations.

I would like to do something nice for Jerry, perhaps a thank you card or an envelope with some cash. I know that he will continue to polish his heart of gold without any acknowledgement, but I want to be the one to tell him that he is making a difference–that his positivity is benefiting nearly everyone who crosses his path.

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