One day in spring 1947 I was in Florida, plowing a field for a friend. I had been a conscientious objector during World War II, and was happy to be home, farming, again.
A group of convicts was working near the field. I stopped near some bushes hedging that side of the field to adjust the plow. A man came from the bushes, wearing a convict’s uniform, carrying a tool handle as a heavy club.
He stopped near me and said, “I need money bad, and whatever you have, I’m going to take.”
I said: “If you need help that badly, just say so, and we won’t have any rough stuff.” I went back to work.
He lowered his club.
I said, “You’re running away. Do you realize you will be hunted?” He said yes, but the chain gang bosses were mean.
We talked while I worked. Suddenly he dropped the club. “You win,” he said. “I’m going back.” He disappeared into the bushes. After a prayer of thanks, I kept plowing.
Several years later, I was on my way home, nearing an intersection, when two cars crashed there.
The drivers ran at each other, fists flying. One went down. The other kicked him and struck him with a wrench.
I was tempted to go home, but an inner voice urged, “No! Stop and help!” There was no time to find a phone to call the police. The inner voice spoke again: “You are strong. Move quickly!”
From behind I wrapped my arms around the attacker. He struggled, but I held on, not hurting him. When someone nearby offered help. I asked him to call the police. When I explained what had happened, they let me go home. Later, I regretted that I had not looked at either man’s face.
Several years later a worker called from a local mental hospital where I volunteered to say George Harris, a former patient, had recognized me there. I said I didn’t know any George Harris. The hospital worker said Harris told her he was the escaped prisoner, and the driver who would have killed the other if I had not intervened.
Harris said when he got out of hospital, he went to work and started saving money. Now he wanted to mail a gift for me – a very nice watch.
He wrote periodically to say he was doing well, and sent beautiful gifts several times. I always responded with thanks to the return address. He never replied, but one day a car pulled up and the driver said, “Cal Geiger …I believe.”
“Yes,” I said, “and who are you?”
“George Harris,” he answered.
He had become a teacher, and had a wife and children. His health was poor now, and he wanted to see and thank me before dying. He walked to his car and left. What one says and does can make a big difference. I made a difference for George Harris, but also for myself. I am overwhelmingly grateful I knew him.