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Thanks For No Thing - Sam Provenzano



One day I found the following ad on Craigslist:
    Help needed- 70 year old man, flat tire, no spare, broke, hungry, out of work, no family, needs help. I have nothing to offer in exchange for a tire and a slice of bread. If this sounds like something you’d be willing to do, you can find me in my 1990 blue ford on citrus lane; just knock on the window if I’m asleep. Thank you and have a good day.
    So, being the sort of fellow who is inclined to explore situations that might yield the unusual, I went to find the author of this notice, and here is my story.
    I found the blue ford, which had a flat tire, and a very thin man with wispy gray hair sitting behind the steering wheel with his head leaning against the window. His hair, what there was of it, was long and unkempt, and he had a long white beard that went in all different directions. He was asleep, so I knocked on the window. He looked abruptly at me with intense green eyes. There was no discernable emotion in his eyes, only the look of a man who had come to a full stop, both literally and figuratively. He rolled down his window, and before I could speak, he handed me a piece of paper through the opened window. I took the paper and read it twice through. It read:
    ‘Before you make any attempt to communicate with me, please be aware that I cannot hear or speak. I have not had anything to eat since Tuesday- it was now Saturday- and the police are telling me that I have until tomorrow to move my car or it will be impounded. If you are answering my ad and wish to offer me help, please bring me a cup of coffee and something to eat.’
    I walked immediately to a corner coffee shop and ordered him a cup of coffee and a turkey sandwich. I walked back to where I had left him, and he was outside of his car, sitting on the front fender. He smiled as I approached. Without saying a word, I handed him the coffee and sandwich. He took them with little to no show of emotion. He took the wrapper off of the sandwich and took a bite of it then he opened the coffee and drank. I watched as he slowly ate and drank my offerings.
    He looked at me as he finished the last of his coffee, and it appeared that something that had been missing from his eyes was now visible—hope?
    I pointed to the flat tire, and he smiled. After investigating the trunk of his car and finding he had neither spare nor jack, I walked to my car and brought back a jack. He loosened the lugs on his flat tire while I placed the jack into position and jacked up his car. He removed the flat, and I placed it into the trunk of my car and brought it to a garage for repair. When I returned with the repaired tire, he handed me a gift-wrapped medium sized cardboard box. The gift wrapping said Happy Birthday on it. It felt light, like maybe it had only paper in it. I started to say something, and then remembered he couldn’t hear or speak. The box was taped shut, so I placed it on the ground and proceeded to place the repaired tire onto the drum. He knelt by my side and took over the chore, so I went back to the box and began to open it. The man was old, handicapped, homeless and destitute, so I figured whatever was in the box had to be of value only to him. He stood up and came to me before I could finish opening the box. He put his hand on my arm and motioned me to wait. He took a pen from his shirt pocket and wrote on a scrap of paper would I please not open the box until he had finished changing the tire. I was a little curious, but I motioned okay and I went back to his car with him. After we finished, he sat in his car and watched as I opened the box.
    I removed the tape, opened the box and was somewhat surprised to find the box was empty except for an envelope. He was smiling as he watched me look into the box. I smiled back and closed the flaps on the box. I began to open the envelope as I walked back to my car. He blew his horn at me and when I looked back in his direction he waved goodbye, started his car and drove off.
    I sat on the hood of my car and opened the envelope:
    If you are opening this envelope, you’ve helped me more than words could express. Thank you. As stated in the craigslist ad, I don’t have any worldly possessions to offer you, so I’m hoping these few words based on my experience might benefit you in some way:
    Greed hastens the death of spirit
    Always strive to be where you are
    Shun praise, as it deludes
    Find comfort in silence, for therein lies truth
    Give with your heart or not at all
    Never question nor begrudge fate
    Learn your nature and be true to it
    Stay in tune with the rhythm of your being
    A humble heart begets a grateful spirit
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