Nicole Heintz was in a hurry to get to work on a particularly bitter cold Minnesota morning when she realized that she was running low on gas. Stopping at the first station she saw, she pulled in and noticed a visibly distressed man near the pump next to her, and she felt she needed help. After offering him her kindness, she never expected what was about to happen moments after.
As soon as Heintz turned her car off, she saw the guy, staring at the gas pump and crying. Confused by his heartbreaking demeanor, she decided to approach him to make sure he was okay. As she got out of her car, she couldn’t help but notice his vehicle, along with what she saw in it. As a matter of instinct, the single woman felt pulled toward a conversation with this guy, not thinking about anything, other than to ask this total stranger what was wrong.
As she opened her mouth, she saw his feet and her heart sank. It was barely ten degrees in the town of Apple Valley, and this sobbing man was standing outside in nothing more than a shredded pair of socks and flip-flops. “He looked at me and I could tell he was on the verge of giving up because he didn’t even try to conceal his tears when he said ‘I can’t even provide for my family,’” Heintz wrote in a post for Love What Matters. With her debit card in hand, she swiped it at his gas pump to cover fuel for this man to get his family, who were huddled up in the car, to get where they needed to go, but then the unexpected happened.
“Without even thinking, I put my card in his machine and told him Jesus Christ the Son of God died to provide for you. Fill up,” she told him. That’s when she noticed something about his demeanor change. “Something, something came alive in him,” she said. The broken man’s wife emerged from the car, where Heintz had just seen her with her face buried in her hands.
Confused by what was happening between her husband and this woman, the wife asked what was going on, when he told her that their gas had just been paid for by this caring person. With tears in her eyes, the woman ran to Heintz to shake her hand and say thank you. Heintz couldn’t help but notice her filthy clothing when she was struck with the realization of what she happened to have in her car.
Heintz had just filled her back seat with loads of clothes she planned to give away when she was presented with that opportunity with this couple and their two teens daughters, huddled together in their family’s car. She called the woman and her daughters over to take whatever they needed. Heintz was filled with happiness to see the smiles on their faces as they layered on as many pieces as they could keep warm. Meanwhile, other customers were watching what this woman was doing and approached her.
No sooner had the once hopeless father finished filling his gas tank, than God really started to move at that station. One by one, customers began flooding the family with gift cards, and one man even gave the father the jacket off his own back. “Never in my life did I think I would see this kind of thing happen at a gas station with a handful of complete strangers,” Heintz wrote.
What happened that morning should give us all a little hope in humanity and serve as a reminder that love is contagious. When it’s shared, it spreads like wildfire.