This valet practices random kindness

For Memorial Hospital Central valet Justin Johnson, giving extra comes naturally
June 1, 2016
UCHealth Memorial Hospital valet Justin Johnson goes out of his way to make sure every day is better for patients who come to the hospital.

Valet Justin Johnson was about to go to lunch when he saw a young woman, limping. She struggled as she carried a car seat that held a young child, a boy, through the Boulder Street lobby of Memorial Hospital Central.

As a valet, Johnson always tries to meet those who are approaching him half-way, so he began walking towards her. As he drew closer, he could see that she seemed to have a heavy heart.

“Can I get your ticket, ma’am?’’ Johnson asked, expecting that the woman would provide a valet receipt from an earlier check-in.

“I don’t have a vehicle,’’ the woman replied.

“Would you like me to get you a taxi?’’ Johnson asked.

The woman started to cry. Through tears, she explained that no one was coming for her, she had no taxi money, and she was walking home.

“Ma’am, could you please take a seat over here on this bench?’’ Johnson asked. Then, he asked, “How far is your walk?’’

“Well,’’ she told him, “I live by The Citadel mall.’’

Johnson could see that she had been limping, carrying a child, and didn’t want her to trek a distance of more than two miles on foot. He asked her how much a cab would cost to go to her house, and she said she thought it would be about $20.

The former Marine, who rarely has cash on him, reached into his pocket, and pulled out $17. He then went to a co-worker – the valet captain – and asked to borrow $3 to send the woman home in a cab.

“He had just gotten some tips, and he said:  ‘Oh, here. Don’t worry about paying me back.’ ’’

Johnson went back to the woman, who was still seated on the bench, and said: “Whatever you’re going through, it’s going to get better.’’

Johnson gave the woman $20 and told her that he had called for a taxi to drive her home.

“She said, ‘thank you so much,’ and she started bawling even more,’’ Johnson said.

Johnson displays gift cards given to him by leaders at Memorial Hospital Central.

Asked why he did not hesitate to help the woman, Johnson answered swiftly: “Because money don’t control me. If I can help someone, and I have a couple of bucks on me and it will help, then it’s for them.’’

After lunch, Johnson, a father of four children, said Republic Parking’s “big boss from Denver’’ stopped him and said he had heard about what he had done for the woman.Johnson told Kenn Lockwood, general manager for Republic Parking, that it was nothing – he didn’t do it to be recognized by his leaders. Nevertheless, Lockwood reached into his pocket and gave Johnson his money back.

The next morning at the Daily Safety Briefing, Republic’s Kevin Taylor, Republic Parking’s project manager at Memorial Hospital, told Memorial employees about the random act of kindness.

That afternoon, three Memorial leaders – Larry Tremel, director of pharmacy; Holly Urban, director of acute care services; and Kathy Davidson, director of respiratory services – met Johnson in the Boulder Street lobby of Memorial Hospital Central and handed Johnson $90 in gift cards.

“We heard about what you did yesterday,’’ Tremel told Johnson. “We care for people here, and most of the people who are here don’t want to be here. … This is a little something for you. We want you to know we’re proud of you.’’

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.