DEAR ABBY: I have been reading the letters you print about acts of kindness and want to tell you what happened to me. Three years ago, when I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I was driving to the University of Houston's gift shop when a tire on my car blew out.
It was a hot Saturday afternoon, and the campus was nearly deserted. No one at the gift shop would help me out, so I made it to a gas station on the edge of campus. It was located in an area of town to which many people wouldn't travel alone.
As soon as I pulled in, a man came to my window, banged on it, and began shouting at me. Four other men who had been washing windshields for spare change immediately surrounded my car and shooed the first man away. I was nervous, but I got out, and they let me through.
The gas station attendant refused to come out to help me. I tried calling my husband for help, but my cell phone wasn't working. The same four men assessed the situation and offered to help me fill my tire, but the tire was too damaged. They asked me for my spare, but because the car was new I had no idea where it was located. Well, they found the spare and had my tire fixed in no time.
While they were working, two of the men told me about their lives, their grandkids, etc. I felt horrible for having prejudged them simply because the neighborhood they lived in wasn't as affluent as my own. Not one of them would accept my offer of money. I am grateful that God sent me four unlikely guardian angels that day. -- MICHELLE, LEAGUE CITY, TEXAS
DEAR MICHELLE: Thank you for pointing out that although the crime rate may be higher in lower income neighborhoods, living in one does not make anyone a criminal. We live in an increasingly diverse society today, racially, ethnically and economically. To automatically stereotype people because of how they look, their regional (or foreign) accent, the way they dress or where they live is not only a mistake, it is also a sign of ignorance.