A complete stranger paid this man's $2,000 car bill, no questions asked.

When you were a child, this may have been the most frightening situation you could imagine:

Pure terror. Photo via iStock.


But now that you're an adult, I'd guess that this situation is far more anxiety-inducing:

Photo via iStock.

Like the dreaded dentist's appointment, an unexpected trip to the auto mechanic rarely signals fun times ahead. Instead, car troubles fill our hearts with fear and, even worse, our wallets with emptiness. Three hundred dollars for a radiator hose?! Sure, I guess that sounds right... (*cries into checkbook*).

In early March, Keith Burkitt of Houston, Texas, was just like the rest of us: a driver putting off a trip to the auto repair shop.

As Burkitt told ABC affiliate KTRK, his car's alignment was shot, but he knew that fixing it would cost a lot more than he could afford at the time. While speaking with a customer at the restaurant where he worked, Burkitt joked, "I had to turn my wheel all the way to the right just to make the car go straight."

But what happened next was something right out of "Pay It Forward." Despite the fact that he didn't even know the server's last name, the customer in question told Burkitt he had "a friend across the street who could fix it."

Even more incredible?

The customer offered to pay Burkitt's bill, no matter what it cost.

So the next morning, an astonished Burkitt took his car to the mechanic at the Exxon station the customer had mentioned. He replaced all four shocks and struts on Burkitt's car, cleaned his fuel lines, and replaced his timing and serpentine belts. The total cost was a whopping $1,975.

True to his word, the near-stranger had already covered the bill in full. When Burkitt attempted to partially reimburse him, the stranger reminded him of the power of generosity:

"He just said, 'I'm not taking no for an answer, just pay it forward someday,'" Burkitt told ABC News.

We've seen many instances of people "paying it forward" before.

Don't forget about the church that (literally) paid it forward by giving a pizza delivery guy a $700 tip, and the police officer who gave out presents instead of tickets one afternoon in December.

Whether it's something as simple as holding a door for a stranger or donating blood or volunteering some of your time on the occasional weekend, stories like these can inspire each of us to better the world around us in small ways, because paying it forward can be about so much more than money.

This kind of story also makes me believe that every single human possesses true kindness. Maybe being the change you want to see in the world is not just some lofty ideal that we should all aspire to — maybe it's actually just a matter of pure will.

So the next time your faith in humanity is rocked (which, given our current political climate, has probably already happened twice today alone), ask yourself what you can do to restore it.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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