He was driving home one evening, on a two-lane country road. Work, in
this small Midwestern community, was almost as slow as his beat-up
Pontiac, but he never quit looking. Ever since the factory closed, he'd
been unemployed, and with winter raging on, the chill had finally hit home.

It was a lonely road. Not very many people had a reason to be on it,
unless they were leaving. Most of his friends had already left. They
had families to feed and dreams to fulfill, but he stayed on. After
all, this was where he buried his mother and father. He was born here
and knew the country.

He could go down this road blind, and tell you what was on either side,
and with his headlights not working, that came in handy. It was starting to
get dark and light snow flurries were coming down. He'd better get a move on.

You know, he almost didn't see the old lady, stranded on the side of the
road. But even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help.
So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac
was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to
help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look
safe, he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He
knew how she felt. It was that chill that only fear can put in you. He
said, "I'm here to help you ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where
it's warm? By the way, my name is Joe."

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad
enough. Joe crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack,
skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the
tire, but he had to get dirty and his hands hurt. As he was tightening
up the lug nuts, she rolled down her window and began to talk to him.
She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing
through. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Joe just smiled as he closed her trunk. She asked him how much she owed
him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She had
already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he
not stopped.

Joe never thought twice about the money. This was not a job to him.
This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who
had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way,
and it never occurred to him to act any other way. He told her that if
she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who
needed help, she could give that person the assistance that they needed,
and Joe added "...and think of me".

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold
and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing
into the twilight. A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe.
She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she
made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant.
Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her.
The cash register was like the telephone of an out of work actor-it
didn't ring much.

Her waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair.
She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day
couldn't erase. The lady noticed that the waitress was nearly eight
months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her
attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be
so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Joe.

After the lady finished her meal, and the waitress went to get her
change from a hundred dollar bill, the lady slipped right out the door.
She was gone by the time the waitress came back. She wondered where the
lady could be, then she noticed something written on a napkin. There
were tears in her eyes, when she read what the lady wrote. It said,
"You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.

Someone once helped me out, the way I'm helping you.
If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do...
Don't let the chain of love end with you."

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to
serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when
she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the
money and what the lady had written. How could she have known how much
she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was
going to be hard.

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to
her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low,
"Everything's gonna be all right; I love you Joe."

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