In the early days of the coronavirus, on March 13th, Joyce Clinton, was on her way driving to her many child-care jobs in Mesa, Arizona, but by afternoon, she starting getting many text messages announcing cancellations at the schools and churches where she worked, telling her that she would be furloughed.
“’We love you, but you’re out of work, sorry!'” Clinton said, paraphrasing one of the several texts. “By the end of the day, it was just crazy, because one by one everything was shutting down. I don’t think we realized the seriousness of it.”
As she was driving home and was told that she would be losing the last remaining job at a preschool, one of her tires needed air.
The single mother-of-two pulled up to a Discount Tire store and discovered her rear driver’s side tire had been pierced by a sharp piece of tin foil and she needed a new one. She wanted to pick the cheapest brand, but the shop only had medium-priced tires in stock which was $120 plus taxes and fees, and she couldn’t afford it.
“I had no idea how I was going to pay for this,” Clinton said. “It could have been a million dollars because I didn’t have it.”
Inside the tire shop, Adam Lurie had overheard Clinton’s phone conversations as she rallied friends and her church to help with the cost. He also heard the assistant manager politely telling Clinton that they couldn’t bill her later and she had to pay now. “Oh, my,” she whispered.
“She was very anxious,” Lurie said. “I could tell something was going on.” Clinton had never met Lurie before, but he still marshaled his friends to pay $155.94 for a tire for a newly out-of-work teacher.
Clinton was so impacted by that fateful meeting that she started paying it forward delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to the less fortunate, visiting lonely seniors through their screen doors and surprising friends and neighbors with messages of encouragement written in chalk on their driveways and sidewalks.
“If I didn’t have my tire, if I didn’t have my car, I couldn’t get around. I couldn’t do all this,” Clinton said. “Just unbelievable. A total stranger!”
The same day, Lurie also had a flat tire. He had moved to Mesa after earning a promotion at Samsung, and on March 13 he was leaving a training session when he felt his tire blow out.
“I’ve hit stuff before, but it never gave me this bad of a flat,” Lurie said, explaining how a nail punctured a gaping hole into his tire. “It was kind of weird.”
On searching on Google for the nearest Discount Tire, he found a store less than two minutes away, as he had just received a raise, he felt he could handle any cost of a new tire.
He also observed that the rest of the customers inside the store lobby that day were not as fortunate, “Everyone’s kind of on edge because this is when they first started closing schools and closing businesses,” Lurie said. “A lot of fear permeating the air, for sure.”
Lurie wanted to buy a new tire for Clinton on the spot, but she refused. He then asked the store to find a cheaper model, but there wasn’t one in stock.
Keeping Clinton’s safety in mind, the store’s assistant manager was adamant about not taking the newly installed tire off her 2001 Chevrolet Impala and letting her drive home in the pouring rain. He let her go with the new tire on the condition that she would return Monday with the money. Lurie asked for Clinton’s contact information, then turned to social media.
Lurie thought the best option would be a gently used tire, and so he posted a story on Instagram asking his followers if they had one to spare a stranger. A friend, Marianna Ibarra, asked if she could just give some money instead and suggested he create a GoFundMe page. Five people, including Lurie, donated $95. The fundraising came up short, so Lurie chipped in the rest.
Then on Monday, Lurie returned to Discount Tire to settle Clinton’s debt.
“She writes me cards and thanks me profusely for everything. I don’t necessarily need any of that, but it’s so warming to receive that,” Lurie said. “And to see the extent of her love for those around her and her community.”
Clinton’s father lovingly calls her “The Good Fairy of Mesa” for all the volunteer work she does. Clinton has been out of work for 2½ months now, and even though she has applied, she has not received unemployment to replace her many $13-an-hour jobs. Still, she drives around the city, performing her good deeds.
The day after she met Lurie, Clinton had a whole day of delivering food boxes and making grocery store runs for 13 people who had been affected by surgeries or sickness.
She has also visited friends with young kids to make home-school a bit more palatable by dropping off arts and crafts. Before sunrise on Easter Sunday, she painted “Keep up the good work!” and “God bless you!” on sidewalks and driveways so her neighbors would wake up to something positive. She has continued the surprise artwork, with help from her 17-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, glittering up rocks and painting messages on them before placing them outside hospitals, friends’ homes and random spots around Mesa.
It would not have been possible for Clinton’s selfless acts without a new $155.94 tire and a little luck on Friday the 13th. “That was way more payback than I could have ever imagined,” Lurie said. “That was 30 times paying it forward.”