Unexpected and Anonymous July 27th, 2012
Thanks for hanging in there with me this week. My earlier posts didn’t draw scores of comments, but they were controversial and I didn’t expect them to. Nevertheless, in posting them I felt that I was in some way true to myself, and that felt good. So, true to my word, I’m here today with something much happier than what Tuesday’s and Thursday’s posts had to offer.
She sat at the end of the exit ramp. Her tousled hair stuck out from under a ball cap. Her knees poked out from the holes in her jeans. She wore a rucksack backwards across her chest. And she held a sign which I now wish I’d bothered to read.
The driver of the car in front of me rolled down his window, and I waited for the woman to make her way back to me. I reached into my wallet, pulled out two fives, and folded them together. As she approached my car I reached my arm out the window and held the bills out to her. And then I got confused.
She shoved a wadded up dollar bill into my hand. I don’t remember what I said, but I conveyed that I didn’t understand what was going on. She said, “It’s a pay it forward thing. I haven’t seen a five today, so I can’t give you a five. I can only give you a one. So just do something nice for someone.”
I protested. ”I can’t take this from you.” She protested, “I work two jobs. I don’t need it.” I protested, “But if you work two jobs then you need this.” She was insistent. She wouldn’t take my money and she forced hers onto me. The light turned green and I drove off up a dollar. I was completely befuddled.
Why on earth would she do this? Why would she stand on an exit ramp shoving dollar bills into strangers’ hands? What kindness was done to her? Or was any kindness done to her? Perhaps she is in graduate school, doing some sociological study on how people react when someone defies their expectations. Perhaps she felt the need to right some wrong she’d done. Or perhaps she was just trying to send good will out into the universe, trying to make it a better place for the rest of us.
I will never know.
What I do know, though, is that what she did has gotten me thinking. Why don’t more people do things like this? Not just sit at exit ramps handing out money, but do something kind and asking only that other people also do something kind. Better yet, why don’t I do more things like this? Embarrassingly, I was at a loss for how to pay her kindness forward. For starters, I put her dollar bill in the tip jar at a Starbucks later that morning. But I need to do something more meaningful. And I’m at a loss for what that should be.
So I put it to you. I am here to read your recommendations and suggestions. I’d like to do something that will be at least unexpected, and ideally anonymous. I want it to be a pleasant surprise. And I hope it can be a pleasant surprise for someone who really needs one (although that kind of qualifying might be tough). I have an opportunity and an obligation here. I want to fulfill both as best I can.
There is good in the world. And it was good to be reminded so.