Service of Good Samaritans

March 26th, 2012

Categories: Accommodation, Charity Begins at Home, Compassion, Customer Care, Good Samaritan, Travel

I’ve known Good Samaritans and have written about them at least twice, in Service of Snow and Service of Pets II.

Two Good Samaritans helped out my husband, Homer, last Thursday night.

The weather turned hot and Homer left his winter coat on the 4:38 pm Metro-North Harlem Line train and in its pocket were his car keys. The car was in the parking lot at the railroad station. I had the second set of keys and I was at the office in the city, two hours away.

I dialed the MTA police emergency number clearly marked on the train schedule, worrying that our crisis wasn’t bad enough and didn’t qualify as urgent. The policeman 3764–he wouldn’t give me his name–was wonderful, calming and quick. After hearing the story, he took my number and hung up. He called me back immediately saying he’d reached the conductor on the train who’d found the coat and put it in a lockbox at the last station. Our stop is third from last.

Meanwhile we couldn’t reach a neighbor at home or at work to drive Homer to the other station or home.

I asked the MTA policeman to do me a huge favor: To please call Homer directly in the event he had a question. He didn’t hesitate and said he’d gladly do so and even gave Homer a message from me.

Trains don’t come often to this rural spot. Homer planned to take the next northbound one to retrieve his coat and then wait on that isolated platform for almost two hours for the next southbound train.

Soon a man on a motorcycle drove up to my husband. He was Dale Hossfield, the Metro-North conductor from the train Homer had just exited. Hossfield reassured him that he’d found his coat and told him precisely where he’d stored it at the end of the line.

I settled into a new project at my desk at work, deciding not to leave my desk until the situation was resolved and Homer had a way to get home. The station is in an iffy neighborhood and once a train moves on, it gets lonely. I was surprised to hear from Homer some 20 minutes, not 1.5 hours, later. “I’m inside our car!” he said.

Instead of going home to dinner after a long day at work, Hossfield returned to the lockbox two stations up and cycled back to the station with Homer’s coat and car keys. He wouldn’t accept a cent for all the gas he used driving back and forth [$4.04/gallon for regular]. There was no way to repay him for his time and kindness. Talk about beyond the call of duty.

People are in such a rush and often don’t take time to help others. We’ve learned to ignore someone who might welcome help. We have selective vision, like a waiter in a crowded restaurant who won’t move his eyes from the water he’s pouring to see a customer who is motioning for the check–or for water–and may have been doing so for several minutes.

How can we get the message to the “I’m too important and far too busy” crowd to tell them how much someone might appreciate a hand? Can you share a Good Samaritan story?

13 Responses to “Service of Good Samaritans”

  1. Frank Paine Said:

    What a great story, Jeanne.

    Well, I’ve got a little one. My wife and I drove home to Stamford, CT from New Hampshire on Saturday, and I accidentally left my cellphone in a rest stop along the Merritt Parkway. I didn’t discover my mistake until we got home almost 45 minutes later.

    What to do? Well, first we called my cellphone hoping that someone would answer. That was too much to hope for, but then I got in my other car, and hi-tailed it back to the rest stop. The phone was there, not in the restroom where I had left it, but being held for a claimant by some really nice Hispanic gentlemen who were working at the rest stop. There was no hassle whatever about returning it, and not even a hint of an expected reward. I was truly fortunate–and there is so much important information on these phones…Frank Paine

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can imagine how you drove to the rest stop with your heart in your throat. I left my mobile in the bathroom at work on the eve of a trip and raced back at 10 pm when I discovered the loss. The cleaning staff found it and I was sooo relieved. It took a while to find them in the building, which added to the suspense.

    I found a shiny new credit card on the floor by the potatoes at a grocery store we visit upstate weekly. Trust the owner was equally relieved when she went to pay, discovered it lost and she went to the customer service desk!

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    Homer’s tale is an extraordinary one which reaffirms one’s belief in human nature. I can’t imagine how much sadder and meaner our lives would be without the occasional and unexpected Good Samaritan.

    My mother was a confident driver, whose car ran out of gas on the third lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike at a very busy hour many years ago. I was certain that it signaled our end.

    We wished for someone to at least acknowledge us, other than by tooting desperately, hoping that they would notify the personnel at the toll booth about a stuck car. Certainly no one seemed about to stop.

    I frantically argued with my mother who was threatening to get out of the car to signal for help. Suddenly with a kindness of heart and fearless courage that I cannot fully absorb to this day, a middle-aged man driving a car, with his wife and his own infant child in it, somehow stopped his car, a bus and other traffic.

    He got out, putting up his hand to stop the onrushing traffic, trying to enlist aid from the bus driver and somehow got us into his car. I was so overcome with fear that I don’t remember things clearly, but I believe he left us off on the main street shopping area at the next exit. What I do remember is his warm brogue and his self-effacing manner. We never found out who he was, but I remain eternally grateful to him and his family who risked themselves to help us.

  4. Deirdre Said:

    Jeanne: That’s such a great story, on so many levels.
    Mine isn’t as good, but also a lesson in people’s honesty. I took a cab over the weekend, and gave the driver a bunch of 6 singles as the 20% tip. I got out and closed the door. The cab could have left, but instead the driver rolled down his window and said, “How much was the tip you gave me?” I told him $6. He handed me a $5 dollar bill. “This was stuck in the singles,” he said, and drove off. Wow.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your Good Samaritan took his life in his hands. What a story! I’m surprised folks didn’t run him over in their rush to get where they were going.

    There but for the grace of God….I bet most people, at one or another time, have run out of gas. My husband and I argue when the gauge is low. He’ll say, no matter how far we are from NYC, “We could drive to the city from here with what’s left in the tank!” Ha!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Yours IS as good. Maybe there’s something in the air? Might it reach Washington DC and Congress?

    What a generous tip–$6!

    When I was a kid growing up in the city, my mother would give me much more money than I’d need to meet friends at the movies and/or for lunch and she’d say, “Don’t feel obliged to spend it all.” I knew the extra was for emergencies and she’d get the change. I took a cab to meet a friend and handed the driver a $20 by mistake. When he drove off, I waited on the sidewalk for 15 minutes before I gave up. I had to borrow money to pay for the flick. I’ll never forget that this nasty grownup took advantage of a kid.

  7. EAM Said:

    Love your story Jeanne.

    I have a story from July 2005. I was parking my car in the city and came across a tight spot. There was a tall black man wearing a cap passing by and I called him over to help me parallel park the car because it required a lot of manuveureing. He expertly gave me instructions to drive back, turn wheel and, in a few minutes, I found myself parked perfectly in the spot in midtown.

    I put my hand out to shake his hand and thank him for his help. He put his hand in mine and said “God is good” and I replied “and so are you!” He then said, “I’m also a driving instructor.”

    I completely laughed and realized that when you put something out there to the universe, you can get an open and loving response.

  8. Jeremiah Said:

    I’m shocked to read so many “feel good” stories in response to your post about your husband. I think I know why you got them.

    Tim “I’m near to God” Tibow became the NY Jets’ newest quarterback today, and 240 reporters showed up for his news conference. That is ten times the number that normally attend Jets’ conferences. Tebow has performed a miracle and is converting the New York heathan into being “good-folk”!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I, too, laughed at the end of your story–a surprise ending for sure and a great one! Where is that instructor when I’ve needed him?

    Another reason I like your story: So many NYC parking stories are punctuated by knockout punches and/or screaming.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    May you remove the tongue from your cheek!

    Somehow, I don’t think Tibow and his relationship to God is related to these stories, some of which took place a while back, but interesting association nonetheless. I’ll have to ask my husband if the conductor is a Jets fan. I’m afraid Deirdre can’t ask her cabbie–he’s long gone.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    The term “Good Samaritan” appears to have lost its original meaning, and is now used to cover most if not all good deeds. As most workers know, at least some part of a job description includes helping out, be it acting as a team player on the job, dealing with the public, or both. Help should have been expected, as with the MTA person, whose career is in the customer service department. That doesn’t stop one from smiling at the fact he went the extra mile, and some high commendation to his boss may be in order.

    The original Good Samaritan deliberately involved himself by giving assistance in a bad situation which he might have ignored at no cost to himself. Fortunately, there seem to be a number of his descendants roaming about. Let’s not forget a big thanks should one show up when needed!

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are correct that the MTA policeman and the conductor were doing their jobs up to a point.

    I use emergency numbers sparingly and I feared that the policeman would be annoyed that nobody was bleeding nor had they fainted nor were they run over. He must hear a bunch of stuff all day and he was as kind and patient with me as a concerned friend. And because he moved like lightening, he saved the day. When I asked if he would speak directly with Homer, he could have told me to fly a kite, that he’s not an answering service and that he was busy, but he didn’t. He was gracious as well. AND the policeman gave Homer this message from me: “Please come back to NYC if nothing works out.”

    The conductor was off duty. He didn’t have to go a half block out of his way to seek out Homer and yet he went miles several times to help out. That kind of service wasn’t in his job description, I’m pretty sure.

    Homer is writing the MTA in praise of both and I will give him a copy of this post in the event he sees Dale Hossfield, the conductor, on the train.

  13. Lucrezia Said:

    As to acting when off duty, once hired you are always on the job when needed. Think about the off duty cops who save lives when not on overtime, not to speak of off duty firemen who don’t think twice to extract victims from car accidents before a vehicle blows up. I would frequently bump into those I dealt with at work, in the street or in a store, and who would bring up some job related request. Like it or not, it’s part of the job to help them out. I am not down playing the MTA person’s act, but this may well be the way he felt. Homer lucked out by not meeting with one with a 9 to 5 corporate mentality.

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