Four years ago, as Francis Pass, owner of Pass One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Herrin, IL, sat in his office one cold and rainy evening, he heard the door open. He was the last person left, so he made his way toward the front to find a young man and his wife, drenched to the bone. The young man had asked if he and his wife could come out of the storm and wait out the rain.
“I invited them into my office and asked them to sit down,” recalled Francis. “They didn’t want to sit on the chairs because they were so wet. I told them that a couple of wet chairs wouldn't bother me.”
Francis asked why they were walking in the rain in the first place. They proceeded to explain that they had missed the bus and there was no other way for them to get home. When he offered the young couple a ride home, the husband waved off the offer, stating that he was certain that the storm would pass soon, and they just needed a few minutes to warm up.
While the couple dried, Francis got to know them. He discovered that the young man was a Marine veteran. As a veteran himself, Francis does all he can with and for the veterans of his community. While he sat and listened to these youngsters’ story, he learned that the gentleman suffered from PTSD, and coping with life had become a challenge. As a result, the family had fallen on hard times. He had lost his job and the family’s source of income. Their car had been repossessed. They couldn’t keep the electricity on or food on the table, so their small children had been taken away by the Department of Family Services. Their life was a daily struggle.
Francis had made up his mind. “I told them I was giving them a ride home, which they resisted at first, but finally agreed,” said Francis. “I could tell that they weren’t looking for anything, they didn’t want a handout. He was a proud veteran and accepting help came hard to him.” As they rode home in Francis’s new truck (with their jackets turned inside out so as to not get his nice leather seats wet) they continued to talk and connect. Francis told them about his own experience in Vietnam and how everyone who comes home from war comes home with ghosts that will always be with them. “I explained to him how important it was to focus on what is good in this life and how that has helped me over the years.”
As Francis pulled in front of the dark home, he worried about how they would eat without a source of power. “They told me they planned to eat some cold canned food and that they would make do. The thought of that young couple, of that veteran, sitting in a dark house eating out of a can broke my heart,” Francis recalls. “As they stepped back into the storm and began walking away, I was compelled to call out to them.”
Francis pulled out two $100 bills that he happened to have in his wallet that day and folded them up into the palm of his hand. He asked the young veteran to shake his hand. “As I took his hand and looked into his eyes, he noticed the money but refused to accept it. He didn’t know how he would be able to repay me, so I told him not to worry about repayment and to always remember that Jesus loves him and has a plan for him, even when life is difficult.” At that, we departed.
Three weeks ago, Francis was told that there was someone who had come into the office and asked to speak with him. “The moment he stepped through the doorway I recognized him. He had a huge smile on his face, and looked neat and clean.”
“I just wanted to come back to repay you,” the young man said as he sat in the same chair he had that rainy evening four years prior. “I had an interview the day after we met and now have a steady job, a car, we were able to get our children back, and we are doing well. My family and I thank you for everything you did for us.”
When the young man asked to repay Francis for his kindness, Francis responded “You already have.”During this season of gratitude and thankfulness, Francis’s story reminds each of us to be grateful for all that we are blessed with in this beautiful life. “Every once in a while, we are given the opportunity to help someone. I encourage you to jump at those opportunities,” Francis shared. “We often gain more from those experiences than we give.”