An Obligation, Not a Loan

I finished college early and had about 10 months to kill before starting graduate school back in 1992. Living at home with my parents, I heard about a job with the neighborhood pharmacy and went to visit the owner. His name was Bob Brunton. He hired me on the spot and sent me out with his delivery girl who I’d be replacing.

To my horror, we got into the truck and she began expertly manipulating the five speed manual shift. I had given up on shifting when my dad taught me to drive years earlier. THIS was the truck, a Mitsubishi Mighty Max, that I would have to drive.

I went home that night and thought about how I could bow out of the job. I knew I couldn’t drive the truck and considered slipping a note under the door. I didn’t think I could face Mr. Brunton and explain that I couldn’t drive a stick shift.

Instead, I had my dad take me out to work on a manual shift that evening. I was bad at it, but decided I would really try. In addition, I had to take a map to figure out where the deliveries needed to go.

The next day, Bob’s delivery girl went out with me as I drove the truck. She didn’t say anything as I ground the gears and lurched around. If she told Mr. Brunton, he didn’t tell me anything about it. I took over the job and spent the next several months delivering drugs to Brunton’s customers and working the cash register when I was in the store.

The job turned out to be great. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I worked four hours each weekday for $5 an hour. The goal was to save up money for expenses my graduate assistantship wouldn’t cover.

At the end of several months, it was time for me to leave for school. Mr. Brunton, who let me call him Bob, sat down to make out my last paycheck. He gave it to me and I thanked him. He said, “I have something else for you.” He made out a second check for $500 which was more than I made in a month. “Hunter, this is not a loan. This is an obligation. I am helping you. You are obligated to help others you come across as you are able.” The money was a big help to me as I started graduate school the next month. I have always remembered what he did for me both in providing the job and in passing on the $500 gift that was really an obligation.

Since that time, I have followed in the spirit of what Bob told me he expected me to do. I know I will continue to have opportunities to do more. I heard Bob died recently when I was back in my hometown and visited the barber shop a few doors down from where the pharmacy used to be. I hope somehow that he knows I took his words to heart.


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