The holiday season has a way of bringing out the best in people.
Just the other day, I was on the receiving end of generosity, when a kind gentleman — whom I had just shared a brief conversation with — politely asked if he could pay for my coffee at 7-Eleven. I was taken aback by the gesture, and kindly and humbly accepted. A moment later, he and I parted company by wishing each other safe and warm holidays.
Since then, I’ve heard and read stories that embody the spirit of giving. None, however, has warmed my heart as much as the story that is tied to the person who is pictured here.
Ambrosio, affectionately referred to as “Bruce,” just turned 90 years old eight days ago.
That’s worth repeating: Bruce just turned 90 years old!
If that doesn’t resonate, perhaps this will: In 1927 — the year Bruce was born — the Rose Bowl was in its 13th year; one dollar could get four people into to see the latest film; the Harlem Globetrotters played their very first game; and sculpting was just getting underway on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
Suffice it to say: nine decades is a long, long, long time.
Before most of our parents even met, Bruce was already living out his fourth decade — which included stints as a contract worker for the U.S. government in the Philippines and Vietnam.
Over the last few decades, he has lived a humble, quiet, and peaceful life with his son and namesake, Ambrosio, in East San Jose, neighbors to my longtime friend, Alex. These days Bruce enjoys simple pleasures: fresh air, and daily bike rides to San Jose’s Lake Cunningham Park to collect bottles and cans, which — in part — help to finance his trips back home to the Philippines.
A number of weeks ago, he injured himself while riding his two-wheeler, abruptly putting a temporary end to his daily ritual. In the interim, he’s used a cane to get around.
While bike accidents have derailed much younger men, one mishap couldn’t discourage Bruce. In recent days he was back on his two-wheeler. And while that was a welcomed sight, it was enough to give Alex pause. Subsequently, he experienced an epiphany: Bruce needs a safer mode of transportation.
Alex, who has lived one house away from Bruce for the better part of two decades, began to put the wheels in motion. He posted this on Facebook: ATTENTION: Friends, I have a 90-year old neighbor who fell off his two-wheel bike and injured himself…I would like to know if anyone has a 3-wheel bike to either donate or sell. I am willing to take parts, as well, and build it.
Within a day, Alex’s network of friends responded with a fistful of offers. (One even offered to build a state-of-the-art custom 3-wheeler.) Ultimately, he and four generous friends — Rene, Jose, Mike, and Fernando — chipped in $60 each to buy a brand-new one.
It’s worth noting that all five of these empathetic, generous, and hardworking men are — in every sense of the words: tough guys. In appearance and presence, these aren’t the type of men one would want to mess with. Of course, beneath their rugged exteriors beat big warm hearts.
Incidentally, in folklore, the name Bruce is associated with perseverance. And of course in pop-culture, Bruce is often associated with the Incredible Hulk. Ambrosio clearly embodies both.
Yesterday, Alex was able to present Bruce with the new bike, and these words, “I don’t want to see you on that two-wheeler anymore.” Bruce humbly and emotionally accepted the generosity of Alex and Co.
Later in the day, in a gesture emblematic of friendship, culture, and his own appreciation, Bruce brought over a plate of food for his longtime neighbor.
Today, the incredible Bruce no longer has to ride to the park and walk back with a load of bottles and cans. His new 3-wheeler is equipped with a basket for the day’s take.
In the spirit of giving, Alex, Rene, Jose, Mike, and Fernando demonstrated that they are pretty incredible men … almost as incredible as Bruce.by