by Luke Francois, Superintendent

A recent trip through North Dakota reminded me of a simple word.  Selflessness.  Acting with less concern for yourself than for the success of others.

I pulled on to an off-ramp and stopped next to a white cross on the side of the road.  The cross was most likely from a previous accident but I am sure the kids were wondering if this would be their demise as well.  I started unpacking the back of the vehicle in order to find the jack that comes with the truck.  To be clear, this is the slow wind up kind of jack that always leaves a knuckle wracked and bleeding before it is over.  Then through the hazy heat pulled the largest white Dodge pickup truck that I had ever seen.  The duallys on the back clearly meant this truck was a work horse.  Out stepped the most stereotypical North Dakotan that I could have imagined: boots, buckle, an honest-to-goodness Rollie Fingers’ mustache, and a cowboy hat that was as natural as a baseball cap at a ball park.  The guy smiled and asked if I could use some help.  I explained the situation and he shared that his ranch was a mile down the road and he would load up his speed jack (think NASCAR) and be right back.  Before leaving he offered each kid a water bottle out of a cooler in the back of his truck.

While he was gone I was able to remove the hub cap and loosen lug nuts to expedite our roadside experience.  Tiffany unknowingly to me (and not unaccustomed to flat tires on the trailer having experienced three flat trailer tires in one day two years ago) had taken the numbers off the rise of the flat tire, phoned ahead to Tires Plus in Bismarck, and asked if they had such a tire in stock. Fortunately, they had the tire, and Tiffany pleaded with the worker to stay open past the 7:00 pm closing time. He gave her until 7:15 as long as we promised we wouldn’t stand him up.  Tiffany assured him we would be on our way just as soon as we could.  

My proverbial knight and shining armor returned to save our damsel family in distress.  He jacked up the trailer in six quick swinging motions, the tire was off, the spare was on, and my speed wrench tightened the lugs in short time.  I offered the guy a $20 bill and he refused.  I asked him to reconsider, offering it up as beer money on a hot Friday evening.  He again refused, stating he had plenty of those (beers) back at home.  He was on his way and so were we.  A selfless act indeed.

Tiffany was on the phone to Tires Plus as we pulled out stating we were 30 miles out and would arrive shortly after 7:15.  We pulled in at 7:20 and were met by a pit crew that was ready and waiting for us after work closed on a Friday.  Impressive.  While one guy was pulling the old tire off the rim I was removing the spare.  The new tire went back on with ease and my three boys were impressed to learn what an impact wrench was after seeing it in action for the first time.  Each lug went on in seconds with a whirl followed by a tug tug tug sound.  At 7:35 the new tire was on, treads checked on the remaining tires (they were fine) and we promptly paid the bill.  I offered the crew a $20 bill and to my delight they accepted stating, “Gee, thanks Mister, you didn’t have to do that.”  I thanked them for staying late and we were on our way and back on schedule for the drive the next morning.  Another selfless act.

The probability of me seeing these now called friends again is not likely and they are less likely to know that I wrote about their selfless acts.  However, I did promise the Dodge truck driver before he left (I never did ask his name) that I would pay it forward.  By paying it forward perhaps the friends, in turn, will be the recipient of another selfless act many iterations down the road.  

This year I commit to being a selfless Superintendent.  I will act with less concern for my own success and instead focus on the success of others – students and staff.  I will stop to assist someone roadside as another had done for myself.  And through this narrative I hope that others will act selflessly and in some way impact people and places that will give back the gratitude I have for a rancher and Tire Plus worker in North Dakota.