The horrifying shootings that took the lives of five police officers in Dallas on July 7 jarred not only our two cities, Dallas and Fort Worth, but the nation. The mourning, the anguish and, sadly, the recriminations have yet to subside.
But the day after the shootings, while most of us were busy blaming each other and being philosophical, Billy Heiser of Lake Worth had his own idea how to respond. He ordered 20 fajita dinners from Arizola’s Restaurant in Lake Worth.
“Where they goin,’ Billy?” he was asked.
“Lake Worth Police Department,” he said.
Billy thought otherwise.
“The plates are ten bucks apiece and there’s 20 of them so that’s why I left $200 cash on the counter,” he said. “But thanks.”
Those dinners were delivered to the Lake Worth Police Department.
Billy is quick to point out that the towing company he runs, Lone Star Towing, does business with various police agencies but, come on, that’s not why he offered this small act of kindness, respect and generosity. He wanted the men and women of the police force to know that somebody was thinking about them, that somebody appreciates them.
A man buys 20 meals for a police department. The restaurant
does not want to charge him. He pays anyway.
This is the sort of appreciation for law enforcement that lots of folks talk about but rarely act upon.
Such tokens of kindness and generosity – or just taking time to say thanks – are among the small pieces of life missing from the puzzle of what seems to be a world getting more insane every day. We try to sort out the whys and wherefores of the violence and the killings and the bloodshed but there are few, if any, clear answers. The emotion weighs on us like a blanket, wet and soggy. It’s hard to smile and we forget how to laugh.
In our mourning and sadness we lose, as a nation, our collective sense of humor. It’s understandable, even inevitable, but nonetheless unfortunate.
Billy Heiser, though, knows kindness and humor.
“Well,” he says, reflecting on those 20 fajita dinners, “I know those folks enjoyed the food but I’m not sure they can run and catch anyone after eating ’em all.”
Heiser is 56 and grew up in Lake Worth. He has the look of a man who can handle himself, as we used to say. Stocky, short-haired and tan from the sun, he has the body of a block of wood that might be wired with steel.
His gait is direct and has purpose. It’s not an intimidating shadow that he casts but everything about him says, “Don’t get in my way.”
And yet, when you come face to face with him and he gives you a big ol’ Texas smile and a firm handshake and says, “Hi, I’m Billy,” you know you’ve made a friend.
We met in what should have been uncomfortable circumstances.
In a case of mistaken something or other, my car had been towed from a parking garage by Heiser’s company.
Now, we’ve all lost car keys and even forgotten where we parked our car. Rarely do we feel we lost one. But after a hot hour climbing up and down two levels of a parking garage after a week’s vacation, I realized that my car was gone.
Turns out someone reported my car improperly (not illegally) parked and phoned Lone Star to come get it.
Learning that the car had not been stolen was a relief – or what you might call the calm before the storm that erupted when I discovered it had been towed.
Reclaiming the car became complicated before Billy showed up, heard my plight, and cut through the red tape to get my car back to me. In a brief but intense conversation about life today and its pressures, Billy told me the fajita story. And then we discovered a couple of subjects we had in common and began to laugh. A bad situation had suddenly turned fine. I phoned him the next day to ask if I could write about him. If it might help someone, he said, it would be okay. He explained that he graduated from Lake Worth High School with 20 of the greatest people in the world. One is from the family that owns Arizola’s.
The group, he said, has no one in it that is rich except for the wealth of friendship. They hold a golf tournament each year that raises about $15,000 for needy children and they donate money to Santa’s Tots.
When he’s not helping folks and running the towing company, Billy is raising bucking bulls. He has about 20 right now. Last November, he suffered what turned out to be a compound fracture of his foot working with a bull. He went to the hospital the next day for surgery – but only after he checked in at work.
They don’t make many like Billy Heiser.
“It just seems to me,” he said when I told him I wanted to write about him, “that a little kindness now and then would make the world a better place.”
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org