Scott got to church early to get a good seat for the Christmas service. He found a seat up against the aisle, and settled in. People were starting to file in wearing their Sunday finery when he remembered his cell phone was on.
Just as he started to cut it off, John walked up with a big smile and a handshake. A typical Sunday morning conversation ensued, and as it was ending John questioned Scott about turning off his cell phone.
"You never know," he said. "Some desperate soul just might need you," he smiled.
Scott grimaced, reconsidered, and turned the phone onto vibrate. Scott ran a one-man towing business, and the last thing he wanted this morning was to have to miss the service to haul someone out of a ditch, or worse, drag the shredded remains of someone's car off of the highway.
Not five minutes passed before his cell phone vibrated. As he walked toward the lobby to answer the call he could only think, "Full retail for this one."
It was old Mrs. Wingate, a widow whose dilapidated jalopy was headed for the Guinness Book of World records for running long past the natural life span of any car. Her car had broken down on her way to church, and she was stranded on the side of the road, freezing.
She was perhaps the kindliest little old lady anyone could ever hope to meet, and he could scarcely ask her to call anyone else. After all, she and his Mom were good friends.
When he arrived, Scott could see the steam still rising from her hood. She smiled gracefully as only a true Southern lady could, and they commiserated for a moment over her ailing car.
As he slipped a pair of coveralls over his Sunday pants and shirt, he asked her to step in front of his truck for safety's sake.
"Why, whatever for?" she asked.
He explained how when the steel cable pulled her car up onto the flat bed of his truck there was always the possibility that it could snap, and either hurt or maybe even kill someone.
She gave a little gasp, and moved in front of the truck. In just a few minutes her ailing car was secured, and the pair took off towards her mechanic's shop. Since her church was almost on the way, he asked if he could drop her off there. She turned to him and said, "Yes, thank you."
As he pulled up to the side door of her church to let her out, she asked, "How much do I owe you."
He smiled, knowing that she was as poor as a church mouse. He pointed to the church building and said, "This one's on the House."
She smiled that smile that only the truly thankful and relieved could smile, put her time-worn hand on his forearm and said, "I will always pray for your safety."
As she walked towards the church she joined some friends. As he pulled away, he could see them clustered in that tight huddle ladies form when some news needs to be shared. He knew he did not need to ask if she could get a ride home. That was as given as tomorrow's sunrise.
A year later, Scott's Reserve Unit got called up for combat duty. He had all the training he needed, and now it was the time to pony up. He went through the usual tearful goodbyes with his parents and friends, and took the long grueling flight overseas.
Shortly after arriving, his unit was assigned to clear a town of "insurgents." With his mechanical skills, it was no surprise that he was assigned to a support group helping to maintain other vehicles in their unit.
It was not a peaceful day. Occasionally, the distinctive clatter of AK-47s would be heard along with the blast of rocket propelled grenades. This was usually followed by M-16 and 50 caliber machine gun fire.
It wasn't long before his team got the call to assist a wounded humvee towards the center of town. They quickly descended on the shot-up vehicle, and began repairs. As they worked away it became obvious what parts and tools were needed, so Scott returned to the truck to get them.
As he rounded the back of the truck he ran face-first into a enemy soldier that had slipped up quietly. Instantly an AK-47 was shoved into his face, and he heard the hammer of the rifle drop as the trigger was pulled.
It was the loudest sound he had ever heard in his life. For whatever reason, the gun had not discharged, but he had heard that gun's hammer hit steel like a blacksmith's hammer striking an anvil.
Immediately he reacted. With his left hand he swept the gun aside, and with his right hand slammed the heavy wrench he was carrying into the head of the enemy soldier. The grungy, AK-carrying guerilla went down like a pile of rags.
Calling for help, he turned his unconscious would-be killer over to the combat troops.
He was shaken so hard he couldn't stand up. He sat down on the truck's tailgate. He could only think, "The gun should have gone off. It should have blown my brains across the street. I should be dead." But he wasn't.
By evening, his nerves had finally settled down as much as they were going to that day. His team had been called back to work on a downed vehicle in a well-secured area so they moved away from the fighting.
After chow the mail caught up with them. He got two letters, and a post card. He flipped the post card over and found that it was from that dear old soul, Mrs. Wingate.
It had only one sentence, "I will always pray for your safety."
He bowed his head, and quietly cried.