It was a bitter cold evening in northern Virginia. The old man's beard was glazed by winter's frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.
Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first few pass by without trying to get their attention. Finally the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue.
He caught the rider's eye and said, "Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There isn't a passageway by foot."
Reining his horse, the rider replied, "Sure thing. Hop aboard." Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped him onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman inquired, "Sir, I noticed that you let several other riders pass by. Then I came, and right away you asked me for a ride. I'm curious why, on such a bitter winter's night, you would wait and ask the last rider.What if I had refused and left you there?"
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse,looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, "I've been around these parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good. I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give some assistance in my time of need."
Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply. "I'm most grateful for what you have said," he replied. "May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion."
With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and continued on his way home.
May we never get too busy in our own affairs that we fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.