The man without a name
Gratitude is born in the hearts that take time to count up past mercies.
Charles E. Jefferson
"Get out, get out! You´re on fire!"
Jerked awake by a voice I did not recognize, I sprang from my bed. Hurry! Hurry! Wake up! Wake up!were the only words I could think or say as I bolted through the apartment, rousing sleepy children and grandchildren.
The warning came in time for all of us to get out. On that cold Thanksgiving morning my husband, Bobby, two of our three grown children, my husband´s twin brother and his two grandchildren huddled outside and watched our apartment and restaurant burn to the ground. By dawn, only the brick fireplace remained standing.
But we were grateful to be alive. Who had awakened us? How could we ever thank that person?
The 124-room hotel next to our restaurant, also part of our business, was undamaged. The desk clerk, who had not seen the fire at first, told us that a man in a pickup truck stopped in the middle of the deserted highway, ran into the hotel lobby, told her to call the fire department and began banging on doors.
Who was the man? We asked everyone—the firemen, police and hotel guests. No one had seen him except the desk clerk. We put an article in the newspaper asking for information. We could never fully thank someone for saving the lives of our family, but we wanted to express our gratitude in some way.
In the following years, we thanked God each Thanksgiving for this person, known only to him, who had done so much for us.
Twenty-five years went by. During those years, we rebuilt our apartment and restaurant, then sold them and the adjacent hotel. We had become volunteers with group traveling throughout our state, other states and various countries, building churches, dormitories and camps.
On Christmas Day, 1994, my husband Bobby and I and our three children, their spouses and our nine grandchildren gathered at our oldest son´s home. Once again we remembered the man who had saved our lives and without whom none of our grandchildren would have ever been born. We prayed for God to bless him and asked that someday we could meet him.
A few days after Christmas, Bobby and I met Ray Horton, one of our group´s lead carpenters, to pick up a tool trailer. He invited us into his home for coffee, and we began exchanging experiences and telling about places we had been and things we had done.
Ray told us about building houses in Portland, Texas, in 1969 and 1970. We shared that we used to own a restaurant and hotel there.
Ray turned to his wife. "Do you remember me telling you about a fire at that hotel?
At the same instant Bobby and Ray realized that Ray was talking about our hotel. They stood up, facing each other, and started crying and hugging. Then we all hugged and cried, knowing that we had found the person God had sent to save our lives. At that moment, we finally got to say thanks to the man who had remained nameless for twenty-five years.
Jack Canfield, Victor Hansen, et al.
Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul:
Heartwarming Stories for People 60 and Over
Florida, Health Communications, Inc., 2000