(Photo of Jason Robards at home in Anchorage. Credit: Loren Holmes_ Anchorage Daily News)
Jason Robards was hungry. He pulled into the local Carl’s Jr., ordered a burger in the drive-thru, and pulled up to pay. That’s when he met Joseph Rice.
As Jason reached toward the window to pay for his food, Joseph noticed a tattoo on his hand. It was Bob-Omb from Super Mario Bros. fame.
“Do you play video games?” Joseph asked. Jason replied that he did a little bit, but he would do it more if he had a good system.
That’s when Joseph said he had something for Jason. He told him to return to the Carl’s Jr. at 8 PM the following evening.
When the time came, Jason realized he’d forgotten about the appointment while cleaning his living room. He looked at the time on his phone, saw it was 8 PM, and decided that he needed to see what would happen.
Jason Didn’t Know What to Expect from the Meeting
Jason said he showed up to an empty restaurant. The only person there was a woman behind the counter. She asked how she could help, and he told her the story. “Oh, that’s Joseph,” she said.
After calling back to him, it didn’t take Jason long to appear. He held a huge black trash bag that was handed to Jason, along with an envelope. Inside the bag was a PlayStation 4 console.
That’s when the chance encounter felt like it was destined by fate.
Jason spent the pandemic at a correctional center and a halfway house. The world he came back to was very different from the one he left behind, and it was hard getting used to the demands of a daily routine.
Addictions had led Jason to prison, but he got clean inside. Receiving treatment made him feel like he had potential, but that perspective faded once the protective walls were gone. Pandemic life was simple, so he reconnected with his family, sold sneakers online, and worked odd jobs.
Joseph spent the pandemic working on cars since his dad owned a mechanic business. His friends were online, which meant that isolation was a real problem. It got to the point where he finally told God that he didn’t want to be here anymore, so he might as well be dead.
About three weeks later, Joseph said he felt a warm feeling come over him while praying. His depression was gone immediately. That started Joseph’s re-entry, including sermons that he posted on TikTok.
“I love talking to people,” Joseph said. “I try and talk to as many people as I can at the drive-thru, as long as I can.” He even hands notes of encouragement to those who come by the restaurant.
The one thing that Joseph says he’s learned from everything is that when he puts kindness out there, it multiplies.
What is most remarkable about Joseph and Jason is that when they were interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News for their story, they both told the reporter the same thing. “You never know what a stranger might be going through.” []
Strangers Following the Same Path from Different Directions
When Joseph saw Jason’s tattoo, he saw it as a sign. Instead of selling it, he’d decided to give away his PS4, and the right person hadn’t come along. “I thought this will not only help him, but it will also make his day,” said Joseph. “I thought, you know, if I can do that, then it’s worth it.”
Jason returned home from his trip to the Carl’s Jr. and looked at the envelope. When he decided to open it, he found a note inside.
Joseph had said that their meeting wasn’t a random encounter. “I’ve been wondering how I was going to get rid of my PS4, and God has brought you to me,” the note read.
“This is a sign that He wants you to be happy. It doesn’t matter what you have done. God loves you.”
Jason said the last part of the letter was what affected him the most. He found himself crying in a car with a PS4 in the passenger seat. Joseph included $40 and his phone number in the envelope.
Although Jason doesn’t know what to do next, he says that when someone sees you as a person of potential, it changes how you see yourself. He’s not spending the $40 that Joseph gave him. He’s waiting for the right person who needs it.