Filling up with Bob

“One person can’t change the whole world.
But one person can change the whole world of another person.”

 I decided to pull into the wholesale gas station. Might as well, even though I only needed half a tank, I was already in town and gas was cheaper here. I leaned against the car and watched the numbers click away behind the Plexiglas. Filling up wouldn’t take long.

When the attendant saw me, he slowly made his way over, nodded and greeted me with a gentle, “Thanks for stopping in.” He wore a yellow vest and a baseball cap. The bill reached over his thin framed glasses. His face was covered with a light blue disposable mask and his hands with latex gloves. From what I could see of his face, I guessed him in his late fifties. I acknowledged him with a “How are you today?” not realizing, the ensuing conversation would leave me changed for a long time.

There are two types of how-are-you. If a person is in a hurry, the question can be asked once. It is a rhetorical question. The recipient knows not to intrude with an honest answer and says, “Fine.” Both parties move on knowing they did the polite thing.

But then there is a different how-are-you. If a person is sincerely interested in wanting to know, she immediately follows the first how-are-you with another question quite similar. Nobody ever gets an honest answer after asking just once.

I found myself asking, without thinking, one of those follow-up questions. “How are you doing with all of the changes these days?” He looked at me as he folded his hands together to straighten the loose fitting gloves.

“Now, they make us wear these even outside!” He pointed to his mask and pulled it over his nose.

“How is that going?” I asked.

He took a step closer to my car, still careful to mind his distance.

“I am ok with it. I am compromised and have to watch myself.” He said with a slight sadness in his voice.

“Oh. Are you sick?” I asked, trying not to dismiss nor intrude.

“Well. I … have cancer. I don’t think I would do well catching the virus,” he said

I checked the meter. I still had a way to go.

“Oh no. I am so sorry. Do you have a good support system?  People who help you?” I asked.

“Well … No … I mean … this might be too much information … but … my wife died three weeks ago. I have family. But she was always there for me.”

I  looked at his nametag.
“Bob … I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine.” My words stuck in my throat. I didn’t know how to react.

“It would be her birthday in two days.” His voice cracked.

“I am so sorry. May I share something?” I said, and took a deep breath. “When I don’t know what to do or when I come across a difficult situation I can’t handle, I pray and ask Jesus for help.” 

His eyes squinted just a little behind his glasses. I could tell he was smiling. “Oh yes. Without the Lord I wouldn’t be here.” 

Now I smiled at him, too. 

He continued, “I wasn’t going to come to work but I couldn’t handle it at home any more. I needed to get out.”

The moment overwhelmed me. Despite mask and gloves, despite Bob and I being strangers, despite a sense of turmoil and unimaginable grief, there was a deep sense of peace. It was a connection between humans. I felt it. It filled the moment. It happened regardless of the layers of polypropylene and a surgical mask. “Bob, I am so grateful you came to work. I am blessed I got to know you. I will pray for you.”

I could see his eyes smiling as he nodded. “Thank you.” With a loud snap the fuel nozzle stopped. I hung it in its place and got in the car. Tears flowed as I drove down the busy highway. The saying is true, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” While Bob may have been there to help me fill up my car, he did much more. He allowed God to use him to show us both the power of a few minutes. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3


  1. That story was so powerful that it actually gave me chills. Definitely a holy moment between two people, and giving you both what you needed. Thank you for sharing it, and for taking the time to talk to Bob and allow him to share his story with you. Most people don’t bother to do that, but it’s exactly what we need to get us through the hard times.
    PS: I’m glad I’ve found your blog, too!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your reaction. There is something so moving when strangers become friends. It’s the Biblical narrative, isn’t it. 🙂 I get to talk to Bob almost weekly and we share tiny slices of our lives … so good.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heidi, Bob is my brother. Thank you for taking that moment to connect with him. His plan was to not return to work until after what would have been his wife’s birthday. He soon realized the quiet in the house was too much to bear, and so returned to work.

    Bob’s faith in Christ is truly what gets him through. He is one of the kindest, selfless and genuine people I know. In his pain and sorrow, he plans to start a LiveStrong group to help others through their struggles.

    There seems to be so much negativity and hate between people lately. But, when we take a moment to see another, to feel another, both souls are strengthened by that grace.

    Thank you from my heart. And God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Sue,
      I am so humbled by this story. I think this account is really not about me doing something that I should be doing a lot more, but about God and Bob, about God and our pain. I am blown away by the way God showed us all how carefully He looks at our pain. He is not a God that is distant, but Emmanuel, God with us. He saw Bob long before I did at the gas station. It wasn’t Bob’s strength or any elaborate way of getting around the pain of life, God showed up right smack dab in the middle of it! It was Bob’s vulnerability, his kindness and gentle heart, that made me want to know more … made us all want know more. I am changed because of it. You are blessed to have an incredible brother, Sue!


      • Thank you for sharing this Heidi. I’m Bob’s daughter. I hate to admit it, but when I’m so deep in the pain of the loss of my mother, I find myself asking God: “why me?” “Why my mom?” I question God and feel disappointed in His plan. Thank you for this simple conversation you had with my father. Thank you for reminding me to trust His plan, and His timing with all things in life, as difficult as some seasons may be. And thank you for reaching out in such a simple way to my father, without ever knowing the pain he was carrying in his heart that day.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dearest Katie,
          Thank you for reading and letting me know. I am in tears. I don’t even know what to say, except, I am so sorry. I am praying now for you, too. Please know, God is near the brokenhearted. Please feel free to stay in touch. 🙏🙏🙏


  3. A God-incident for sure, and such an encouragement to us, to live aware and not miss such moments ourselves. I just prayed for Bob also–thanking God for bringing him blessing through you, Heidi, and praying each day he becomes stronger both physically and emotionally. (Sounds as though he’s already blessed with strength of spirit!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • When he shared his story with me, I am sure he did so thinking it was out of his weakness. But look … how many people are praying for him just because he let me gently know about his pain. I am learning a huge lesson from him about being vulnerable and sharing from our hearts. I have been praying, too!!! Thanks, Nancy. You are a treasure~

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest”

    Love this story… there are fields ripe around us; blessings to be garnered every day. Love seeks the most and receives the most. God’s opportunities are ever around us. The secret I am slowly coming to learn: take time to love for in so doing we find eternal rewards.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading, Lynn. I think we often make Jesus more complicated than He is. Imago Dei. Bob. Me. We all bear the Lord’s image … and that gives us all infinite value and each moment invested is worth infinitely more than we can imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am praying for him too, Bill. I can’t get his face out of my mind. He was so kind. So careful not to come across as a burden. He didn’t even realize what impact he had on me. It’s strange … I felt so blessed by his strength and faith … by his humble determination and in the way he spoke so lovingly of his wife. He told me that she was with Jesus and cancer free …

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yet another person blessed by you…. ❤️

    Loved your radio show about you and Tom too! He was fortunate to be your neighbor…. blessings all around! 🙏🏻

    Thanks for sharing!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow!

    And this happened—during a fill-up with gas- because you took the time to genuinely ask about another’s well being.

    Divine appointments await us, if we are paying attention. I’m glad you were, and your post makes we want to all the more. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

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