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Menschen in the Middle of Nowhere

“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come depend on what you do today.” -Ernest Hemingway.

I heard this story in assembly at school a few days ago and I thought that it was a perfect example of what a mensch is and what a mensch should do. I figured I should share it with you.

In the summer of 1994, a teacher at my school, his wife and family (his family being him, his wife, a two year old son, and a four month old son) decided to go to Yosemite National Park, in California, from Salt Lake City, Utah. With two young children, they though it best to drive at night so the boys could sleep and it wouldn’t be too difficult to keep them entertained.

By the time they had gotten to Ely, Nevada, about five hours out from Salt Lake, they noticed that the gas tank was at about halfway full. They considered stopping, but both of the little boys were asleep and they thought it best to try to make it to the next town instead of stopping and waking the boys.

It was awhile until the next big town, but they figured they could make it. But as they continued driving, passing tiny abandoned towns with only one or two buildings that were boarded up, they watched the gas gauge slowly lower to empty. About two hours later, the car rolled up to an abandoned town with the building boarded up, with the gas gauge below empty.

There was a phone against a boarded up building and it dispatched to a police station. Explaining their problem of having no gas, the lady on the other end of the phone kindly explained that the police would be coming out of Las Vegas and it would take about 4 and ½ hours. By this point it was around 2 a.m., and they decided they would wait and the lady would try to find another outlet to get gas to them quicker.

Since it was the middle of summer in Nevada, they rolled the windows down in the car and waited patiently for the call back about the status on gas. In the distance, a loud cackle was heard across the desert and it was one of the moments when the teacher and his wife looked at each other like, Did you hear that?

They decided to stay in the abandoned town waiting to hear about their gas, despite the sounds in the distance. About five minutes later, they heard the odd cackling sound again, but it was closer. Soon after that, two lights were seen off in the distance and a car with three people in it came rolling up.

My teacher put his hand on the key and his foot on the gas, knowing he had a couple of miles left of gas, in case. The car came rolling up right next to the driver’s window and the driver looked at my teacher and said, “What are you doing out here?”

From this, my teacher could tell that they had been drinking, so he kindly said, “We ran out of gas.”

The three boys started to getting out of the truck, and unbeknownst to my teacher, but known to his wife, one of the boys took a pistol out of his pocket. The one that had been driving came up to my teacher’s window, put his face close in the window, and said, “Well, let’s get you some gas!”

The boys found an old Gatorade bottle and a hose and took gas from their car and gave it to my teacher. Meanwhile, the boy who had the pistol went up to my teacher’s wife and said, “Sorry to scare you with the gun, but you never know who you’re gonna meet out here.”

So, the boys helped my teacher, and in payment, my teacher told the boys that he would help the next person they saw stopped on the road. And the family was on their way.

Not fifteen minutes later, a car was stopped on the side of the road, so my teacher and his family stopped to help. They helped the family, remembering their promise to the young boys.

After telling us this story, my teacher gave four morals and one reason:

The obvious: Fill up the tank, stupid!

The spiritual: Follow your intuition or ‘gut feeling.’

The cynical: There are ‘good Samaritans’ in the world.

The ethical: Don’t judge people by their appearance.

But real reason he shared the experience: It’s just a cool story.

Honestly, this is a cool story and it completely exemplifies what a mensch is and what a mensch should be doing to help others. Those three boys that helped my teacher and his family affected the family greatly. Because of that affect, the family helped an elderly couple.

They don’t know whether or not the elderly couple helped others. But chances are, because of the assistance and kindness they received, the elderly couple probably did go on to help others, or at least remember the kind deed of this family.

So, if you find yourself in a situation like this, you really must think: What would a mensch do?

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