Throughout our hectic day to day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the persistent darkness that has pervaded everyday American life over the last few years. We are always looking at some screen, reading the latest ominous headline. We are divided. The core belief that humanity is good and altruistic gets lost in the frenzy of information that is the modern world. Sometimes we are lucky to have an experience that reminds us we aren’t nearly as divided as we think we are; that we are still tethered to the core values of kindness and giving. As I write this from Black Mountain NC, I am still blown away by the random act of selfless generosity I experienced while at Americanafest in Nashville.
Around 8PM on the last night of the Fest, I went to grab a bite to eat after a great gig at Dee’s in Madison. I was pulling out of the parking lot and ran over the strange object in the picture below. I still have no idea what it was/is. When I pulled over to see what happened, the air was draining from my tire fast. To make things worse, my phone was about to die. I called AAA, but they are only available to tow or help put your spare on. I decided to change the tire myself and get a patch or new tire the next day before heading to Knoxville. I emptied the contents of my trunk (guitars, amps, etc.) onto the grassy shoulder of Nolensville Pike, and started to change the tire. I am fortunate that my good friend Nick Loss Eaton was nearby, and came by to help guard my equipment and change the tire. Exasperated problem solving conversations slowly turned to laughter. What can ya do? Shit happens.
As we got the spare on and started tightening the lug nuts, a truck pulled up. A man walked over to us, wearing an O’Reilly Auto Parts shirt.
“You boys need help? I have my impact driver with me. Full size jack too so you don’t have to use that thing.” He pointed at my flimsy Volkswagen jack.
As two automotively challenged songwriters, Nick and I decided that yeah, some help would be awesome. We explained the situation to him and showed him the strange object sticking out of my tire.
“I live right around the corner,” the man said. “Give me a minute and I will grab my patch kit, and we will get you guys moving.”
A few minutes later the man returned with the rest of his tools, removed the strange object, patched the damaged tire, and put it back on the car with his impact driver, NASCAR style. We used Nick’s recently acquired portable inflator to get the newly patched tire to a healthy 38 PSI. Just like that, it was as if I hadn’t run over anything in the first place.
“Can we offer you anything man?” I asked. “You saved the day here. It’s the least we could do.”
“Don’t worry about it. You ever see the movie Pay it Forward? The kid from the Sixth Sense is in it. All I ask is that you pay it forward. If you see someone that needs help, help them. Don’t ask questions, just help.”
We were stunned. This man who had just gotten out of work in the Tennessee heat went out of his way to help two complete strangers. We finally introduced ourselves. His name is Eric. We gave him copies of our latest albums, as it was, again, the least we could do.
“Y’all play weddings? I’m getting married next year.”
We chatted for a few minutes, shook his hand, and then he was off. He got us on the road again just in time to catch the tail end of Hayes Carll’s set at Basement East. I don’t know if we will ever hear from Eric again, but I know if he asks me to play his wedding I will 100% be there, guitar in hand. A simple random act of kindness can go a long way. It serves as a reminder of what really matters. Like my buddy Zeus in Knoxville says, “there’s too much darkness out there, we need to be lighthouses.” Be a lighthouse. Don’t ask questions. Just pay it forward.