Derek Clark likes helping people.
“Ever since I was young I’ve just enjoyed being able to have a positive impact for other people when I could,” Clark said.
Helping people wasn’t the first thing on his mind when he was driving to his parents’ house to pick up his child after work on Friday when he almost passed on helping a person in dire need of help.
“I was crossing Highland Avenue on University Parkway, and there was a car stuck in the middle of the intersection holding up a lot of traffic,” said Clark.
Clark admits he was tired after a long week and was ready to get home, but at the last moment he changed his thinking.
“I was going through the intersection, and I looked at the woman in the car and she looked like she was crying and had that look like she had no idea what she could do,” Clark said. “She looked like she was in her early 20s and was desperate for help but no one was coming.”
Clark saw that look as he was driving by and made the decision then to pull into the nearby Walgreen’s Drug Store parking lot at the intersection and get out to see if he could help her.
“I got up to her and asked if I could help,” Clark said. “She was out of gas and was trying to get to Kroger to get gas there, so without thinking about it I just told her to put it in neutral and we’d get the car to Kroger.”
Clark said he saw traffic backing up on Highland and University – two streets with a lot of traffic during rush hour on Friday afternoon – and he just got behind the car and started pushing.
“She’s young enough that I don’t think she’d ever driven a car without the power steering working, which with the car not running, the power steering wasn’t working,” Clark said. “And when we were making a turn I thought we were going to hit a fire hydrant because it wasn’t turning quickly enough. But she put on the brakes, and we pushed it back and tried again.”
The entrance to Kroger is about 50 yards from the intersection.
“You never think about how far things like that are from each other when you drive by them every day, but I was aware of it after pushing the car,” Clark said with a laugh.
A couple of other men helped Clark get the car into position for a fill-up after Clark saw they’d lined up the car on the wrong side of the gas tank. But once she woman – whose name Clark failed to get – was set to fill up her car, Clark decided to add to his help for her.
“I’ve been there when a bad day gets worse and you’re just wishing something good would happen for you,” Clark said. “So I decided to go ahead and pay to fill her tank up.”
It was at that time that another man at the gas station, Paul Russell Reed, took a picture of Clark and posted it on his Facebook page.
“Just witnessed this,” Reed wrote on his Facebook post. “The guy in the green shirt pushed this young lady and her car from Walgreens to the Kroger gas station. This image is of him buying her a tank of gas as well. Pay it forward.”
Clark said he didn’t help the woman to get attention, which is what happened after Reed’s post was shared 148 times, many from mutual friends who tagged Clark in their shares.
“I didn’t know anyone had taken the picture until I started getting a few messages and I clicked on what they were sending me,” Clark said. “The one who took the picture was one of the men who helped us get her into the parking lot once they saw what we were doing.
“So he should’ve had his picture taken too. But we all need help at some point, and I hope someone helps me when I’m in a similar situation. If we’d all just try to help each other out, how much change would we see in the world?”
Reach Brandon Shields at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.
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