Jason walked to work for two and a half hours a day because he couldn’t afford to buy a new car. Many years later, a colleague offered to give him a ride, and a few days later an unknown woman did the same. That’s when she and her colleague shocked Jason.
Jason Berry, as always, was on his way to work. He started working as a watchman in high school at the age of 25, and it’s been almost 20 years since then. Now he’s 45 years old.
It used to take him 40 minutes to get from home to school, but the only car he had was his dad’s old Fiat, and it broke down when Jason was 30. He’s been walking to work ever since, which takes two and a half hours.
It wasn’t that bad. He was used to it, although it wasn’t easy on rainy days. He listened to music on a used iPod and considered it an exercise for every day. It also allowed him to reflect on everything that had happened in his life and everything he had experienced.
At the age of 13, his parents disappeared after a trip, and Jason went to live with his aunt and uncle. They were nice people, but they already had five children, so money was tight when Jason moved in. He worked part-time at different places to pay for his things, and he even managed to help with household chores.
But his adolescence was difficult. He began to resent the whole world and rebelled terribly. His friends weren’t the best, and Jason got involved in a stupid school prank with them. They were all expelled from school.
When he finally came of age, he moved into his parents’ old house, but since it had been abandoned for years, it needed serious repairs. In addition, he had to pay a hefty inheritance tax, which made his life even more difficult.
He had no time to prepare for his high school diploma exam, and eventually he forgot about it. He just read books in the evenings when he wasn’t tired from work.
At the age of 25, he got a job as a school watchman because the pizza place he worked at went bankrupt. It was a small pay raise and a few perks. The downside was that it was a 40-minute drive from his hometown in Alabama.
He used his father’s old car for travel until it broke down after five years. Then he started walking: two and a half hours to work and two and a half hours home. After such a long walk he hardly had time for anything, but he had no other choice.
His work was relaxing, and he loved seeing children with all their potential and dreams for the future. Although he often wished his life had turned out differently, it gave him hope.
Suddenly a car pulled up next to him. Usually there weren’t many cars here, because he drove to work very early every day to be on time, so he was surprised by this turn of events.
At first he thought it was Mrs. Garrison, the science teacher who had stopped at about the same place a few days earlier. She offered him a ride and asked if his car had broken down. Jason laughed heartily and told her that his car had been out of order for 15 years.
“Really?” – she wondered. “So you walk to work every day? How long does that take you?”
“About two and a half hours,” Jason replied.
“What? You can’t be serious!” Mrs. Garrison was shocked.
“I am,” he continued, smiling friendly at the professor, who had always treated him like a colleague and no less.
“‘That’s all … and, of course, wonderful. So you know how to be healthy,” she added with a laugh.
“I suppose,” Jason replied, not knowing what else to say. It was nice to be taken to school.
They pulled up in front of the school, and Mrs. Garrison gave him a beaming smile. “You can ask me to take you anytime. At least to the bus stop,” she offered him.
“Oh, I’d have to take so many different bus routes that it’s a waste of time. Besides, most of them don’t even come close to my house. Walking is much easier,” Jason explained. “But I thank you for the offer. Maybe someday I’ll take advantage of it.”
Although he said it, he knew he would never ask for such a favor. He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. If someone suggested it, he would say yes, but he wouldn’t make the first move.
Some of his coworkers asked him about it that day, and he confirmed his daily long walks. They all admired his work ethic, but Jason was glad they didn’t judge him for not being able to afford a car.
As he stood on the side of the road, another person stopped next to him, and it wasn’t Mrs. Garrison. It was a stranger, a much older woman, but she had the same kind smile as his fellow teacher.
“Where are you going, young man?” – she asked, lowering the window and stopping the car next to him in the driveway.
“I’m going to the high school. It’s nearby,” Jason replied, leaning over to look the woman in the eye.
“What a coincidence! I’m going to school, too. Why don’t you come with me?” – The woman suggested.
“Oh, no, ma’am. I don’t want to bother you like that,” Jason replied, shaking his head but smiling at the woman.
“It’s not hard at all, and you can guide me, because this is my first time here,” the woman insisted.
“It’s very easy. Just drive straight down this road, and you’ll find signs. It’s impossible to miss it,” Jason explained, gesturing to the street.
“Please,” she pleaded. “Please, come with me. It would make me feel better to think that I helped someone today. I haven’t done a good deed today. Please!”
“All right!” agreed Jason, as he didn’t want to be rude to such a nice woman. Besides, his legs needed a rest.
The ride to school was quiet, except for the music the woman turned on.
“Do you like Chuck Berry?” – an older woman asked him.
“I like his music now and then. We have the same last name,” Jason said.
“Hmmm,” said the woman, but for some unknown reason she smiled.
“I’ve never seen you in school. Are you applying for a teaching job?”
“No, I have business today, and I’m hoping to give good news to someone special,” she replied.
Jason nodded, not wanting to interfere in her personal affairs. They drove the rest of the way in silence, except when Jason had to steer her around corners. She could have done that on her own.
“You can leave me here, please,” Jason pointed out, and the woman stopped. “The parking lot is over there. It should be open by now, though it’s still early.”
“Thank you, young man. For everything.”
“No, thank you for the ride,” Jason replied.
She smiled at him through her car window and said: “I hope to see you again soon.”
“What a nice woman,” he said to himself as he entered the building and headed to the caretaker’s office to prepare for the day’s work.
The work day was almost over, and Jason had already decided to change his clothes when Mrs. Garrison came in for him. “Mr. Berry, would you mind coming with me to the library? We need you for something,” his colleague asked.
Jason smiled at the woman. “What’s the matter? Do I need a mop?” – he inquired.
“It would be better if you came and then decide what you need,” she explained before she left, expecting him to follow her. Jason found her message strange, but he followed her.
When they got to the library, Jason saw the principal, Mr. Garcia, several other teachers, several other students, and, surprisingly, the woman who had given him a ride to school that day.
“What’s going on?” – he asked, not knowing whether to smile at him or worry about his job.
Mr. Garcia stepped forward through the crowd and patted him on the shoulder. “Nothing’s going on, Mr. Berry. We just want to tell you something,” he began. “Mrs. Garrison told us about your situation, and even some of the students found out about it.”
“What’s the situation?”
“Your daily commute to work,” Mrs. Garrison added.
“Oh,” Jason muttered, not knowing what else to say. He wasn’t happy that everyone at school knew about it. But it wasn’t a secret, either. “I still don’t understand.”
“Well, our tech-savvy students working on the internet have created a GoFundMe for you,” Mr. Garrison said, although Jason had no idea what it was. “Here.”
The manager handed him the check, and Jason opened his mouth wide. He looked at the number written at the top and couldn’t believe it. It was a check for $10,000.
“What is a GoFundMe? What does GoFundMe mean?” – Jason asked, his mouth still open with shock.
“It’s a crowdfunding site. Basically, people post about good causes and other people donate as much as they want. The link was shared, and the goal was accomplished,” Garrison explained. “You could buy a car with that money.”
Jason’s eyes watered, and he shook his head as if it wasn’t realistic.
“But that’s not all,” Mr Garcia continued. “There is a person here who saw the link we posted. She made a donation and started asking questions about you. This could be an even bigger surprise than the cheque.”
Suddenly the woman accompanying him stepped forward with a shy smile and began her story. “Many years ago, my husband and I went on holiday to an island far away from here. But our little plane crashed. We survived, but lost everything we had, including our identity cards, passports and money.”
Jason frowned. He had no idea why she was telling him all this. But he wanted to keep listening.
“Shortly afterwards, my husband fell ill. Fortunately, locals found us, but unfortunately he did not survive. As I had no identity papers, I could not return home. I had to live on that island for decades because there was no embassy and I had no way to leave. But a few months ago I finally came back and started looking for someone important,” the woman continued.
Jason stared at her, his heart pounding in his chest. He thought he knew where this was going, but he wasn’t sure. He didn’t want to get his hopes up for something this serious.
“I finally managed to contact my sister and her husband, but they didn’t know where my son was. I didn’t know how to find you until this message appeared on my Facebook page. The message indicated where you live and where you work. I didn’t know you were still living in our old house. I thought my sister sold it to raise you,” she continued, tears streaming down her face.
Jason could no longer contain his emotions.
“My name is Rachel Berry. My husband was Charles Berry, and you… you are my darling Jason,” she said, making Jason close his eyes in pain and joy. At that moment everyone around them was crying.
“Aunt Sylvia said you were probably dead, but yes, she gave me the house and moved to Utah shortly after I turned eighteen,” Jason said.
“Can I give you a hug?” – Rachel asked, holding out her hands and pursing her lips.
Jason only nodded and lifted his arms to hug his mother for the first time in 30 years. Everyone applauded the emotional reunion.
Then Jason thanked everyone in the library for the money and for making this situation possible.
He ended up buying a car, but continued to work at the school. The only difference was that his mother had moved back in with him.
She persuaded him to study and get his secondary school certificate, which he did a few months later. He enrolled in evening classes at a local university and graduated with a degree in literature, as books had been his hobby for a long time.
When he graduated, Mr Garcia offered him a job at the same school.