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Monday, July 08, 2013

Perspective

Last week I was fussy overmuch.  St. Patsy was due home from her Month Of Sistering in Gettysburg; I was thence on Chauffeur Duty for her Medical Necessaries.  I had a luncheon scheduled.  I had to get an E-check for the car.  I had to go to the bank.  I had to go to the grocery store for a few things.  I had laundry to do.  And since we were leaving on Thursday morning for our annual Independence Day Weekend Jaunt To Canada, I felt pushed and rushed because I also had to pack.  Ugh. 

So, on Tuesday I zipped out to the grocery store.  It was another hot and tropically humid day with ever-threatening showers.  I only needed to grab a few things, mainly nibblies for our Jaunt.  (We like to have a little Road Food on hand to keep our stomachs full for tastings, and Room Food for snacking.)  I was zooming through the aisles as much as I could, which was not much, because it was the 2nd of the month and the store was full of the elderly Social Security recipients.  The checkout lines were also long and slow due to heavy couponing, WIC cards, check writers, and exact change counters.  I, however, was patient and made a mental note to report back to my husband the vast numbers of individuals following The Rick Rule:  Retired People need to shop during the week and leave the weekends for the working people.

I glanced nervously out the huge windows ahead.  It was clouding up again.  I hoped like hell I wouldn't have to load up my car in the rain, then unload it all in the rain.  I saw a few drops hit the glass.

Finally through the line, I hurried out to my car.  Once I stowed my stuff, I happened to glance over to the store's front.  A young couple were unloading a full cart, and the man was valiantly stuffing as much as he could into a large backpack.  The young woman kept shaking her head.  It occurred to me that they had no car.  They were going to walk home with all their groceries.  And there was no possible way that any more of the contents of that cart were going to fit into that backpack.  Simple physics.

I backed my car out, hesitated, then resolutely drove up to the couple.  Pulling up alongside, I called out the open window, "Do you not have a car today?  Would you let me help you by giving you a ride?"

The two exchanged a glance, and the young man came to my window.  "We don't have a car," he said.  "But, ma'am, I guess if you would give us a ride, we'd be glad to take it. Thank you so much."  They opened the door to the back seat and began stowing their bags.  "Wow.  Thanks so much!"  the young woman said as she climbed in after them; the young man sat up front to navigate.  "I don't know what we were gonna do.  That backpack broke, and we had a lot more stuff than we thought."

"I'm so happy to do it," I said.  "Besides, there is no way I could let you even try to walk with this heat and the weather looking this way.  It might storm again any minute.  Now if you'll just tell me where you live and how to get there, we'll be off."  I introduced myself, and told them where I had taught in case one or both had attended there.  They gave their names, thanking me over and over again, the woman recognizing me from school years ago.

"This is awfully nice of you, Mrs. D.," she said again.  "You're probably the only person in this town that would do something like this, though.  No one in this town gives a damn about people like us."

"Oh, I'm sure that's not true!" I protested.  "That's just not true at all.  But I'm glad I saw you and am able now to help out."  We drove by a restaurant a few minutes from the store and stopped at the light.  "Do you like that restaurant?" the young man asked.
"I do," I said.  "But it's so popular and crowded that I don't eat there often.  I like the food, but I don't like waiting for it."  "I work there," he said.  "I just got promoted to staff trainer, and I'm being trained for manager."

I looked at him; his pride was evident.  "That's awesome.  You must be a very valued employee," I told him.  "But, how do you get to work every day?"

"I walk.  It adds another couple hours to my day, and it's worse when I work real late, but I walk.  That's what I do."

As I drove, he told me little things here and there about the neighborhood as we passed them:  the school that is now a charter school, the neighbor who barbecues every Sunday, the guy who is real nice about letting all the kids play in his yard.  Pretty soon we drove up to a tiny house on the corner, and I drove up the driveway.  I admonished them both not to be in a hurry; I was retired and had all the time in the world.  They laughed and pulled their bags from my car, thanked me about eleventy more times, and told me I really saved them that day.

A light rain was falling, and I said they shouldn't get wet.  "I'm so glad I could help you!" I said again, and I backed out of their stubby driveway and drove off.  And really, I was.

It was an interlude I sorely needed. 

My father used to tell us constantly that we needed Contrasts in life to help us fully appreciate the Good Things.  One of his watchwords was Appreciation.  We were raised on it.  And here I was, forgetting it.  I am thankful for such an Object Lesson.

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19 comments:

  1. You did a good deed there & have a wonderful story as a result of it. Contrast brings it all into focus, doesn't it?

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  2. Oh, how I love this post, Nance! Hubby always says you have to walk through the valley to appreciate the view from the mountain top. Of course, it's so true, as you've illustrated here. Your dad was a wise man to pass that on to his children. I'm glad your kind act helped both you and that couple so much. Sadly, I don't think those good deeds happen much any more because people are so afraid of other people, specifically the crazies out there. However, hubby still gives carless folks in our immediate area rides. (Admittedly, it's almost always someone he knows though.) Anyway, I also know how we get caught up in feeling overwhelmed by all the items on our "to do" list and sort of lose touch with what's important, so I appreciate you sharing this post with us.

    Shirley

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  3. We live in an apartment building and see people coming and going all the time. One early evening a number of years ago, when we were coming home from the barn, we walked past a young woman with a small baby. She was knocking on the door of one of my neighbors, but no one was answering. She was looking more and more upset, so we stopped to talk to her. She had very recently moved to L.A. from Israel and didn't know her way around. She was there to see someone but they must have mixed up the time and no one was home. Since she had taken a cab to get there, and had no phone, she was becoming upset, as she had her baby with her, and didn't know anyone else in the building. So I offered her a ride home and she was so effusively grateful, like the young couple you drove home from the store. It took me about 30 minutes, all told, to make the round trip.

    A few days later, I got a knock on the door, and there was this young woman, accompanied by my neighbor. She brought me a big bouquet of flowers as a thank you for my kindness, and thanked me again many times. It was a lovely gesture.

    My thought is that this is what I would hope that someone would do for me or my daughter in a time of need. Do a good deed. Pay it forward. And I got it back a couple months ago. My truck overheated when we were hauling a horse home from an event. A total stranger stopped and asked if we needed help. She drove me to the auto parts store to get coolant, waited for me while I was in the store, and drove me back to my truck. She gave me her card, and literally said, "Pay it forward."

    This is how it should be. You get so much out of one small act of kindness. Just retelling the story makes me feel good and keeps me more aware of opportunities to do other good deeds. If only more people would do the same.

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  4. LaFF--Good for you. I know there are stories out there of terrible things happening to people/Good Samaritans, but I can't tell you how strongly I was compelled to help. It IS how it should be. I've been admonished plenty by a few people--my son Jared, one--and I understand. But like you, I think it's one of those things that makes everyone feel good and restores faith in humanity too.

    gfe Shirley--Thank you. I looked at the things I was so Worried about, and it was pathetic. I was going on a lovely vacation, and this nice couple was concerned about being able to walk home with all their groceries. He walks a long distance alone every day he works to get to his job and home, and I am retired and bitching because of a few errands. IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED CAR. It was a nice smackdown and much needed, believe me.

    Ally--So true. I continue to feel guilty because I didn't think to ask them if there were anyplace else I could take them, or if I could help them any other time with grocery rides. A missed opportunity there.

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  5. I love this story! I wonder if I would have even noticed, much less actually HELPED. Sigh.

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  6. Loved reading this.
    I'm glad you gave them a ride and that you wrote about it.
    It's a good reminder for all of us.

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  7. A bit of a godsmack, eh? Nance, I think YOU - along with being kind - were very brave! I don't know if I would offer anyone I don't know a ride under any circumstances, and this is from someone who use to hitchhike,(but THAT was forty years ago)! Still, well done, good woman!

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  8. Alas, I can say that since almost all of my jaunts outside the home are with my young ones, I probably would not do this.

    Not because I didn't want to, but because I could never possibly put my kids in danger.

    Besides, they would probably drive any passenger crazy with their constant screeching at each other. Whoever it is might just ask to be left on the side of the road in order to maintain their sanity!

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  9. You know, Nance, when you offer people help with a car problem it doesn't always turn out as well as you might like.

    One night, many years ago, we were living at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia where it seldom snows. We were entertaining another couple at dinner and it began to snow. As we looked out of our dining room window we could see the flakes coming down heavier and heavier and we could hardly enjoy our dinner because watching the snow was more entertaining.

    As we gazed through our window we noticed our next door neighbor and another couple stuck in their driveway. Their car was skidding around and they could not get it to go in the garage.

    We immediately jumped into action. The four of us put on our coats and headed over there to push them into the garage. We shouted at the driver, "OK,Don, put it in low gear and we'll push you." We heaved and shoved and finally got them into the garage. We even did them the favor of pushing the button that closed their garage door. We waved goodbye and left.

    The next day I saw Don in his driveway and said, "I'm so glad we were able to help you and your friends get your car in the garage OK." He smiled and quietly said,
    "Thanks,that was nice of you but we WERE going OUT."

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  10. Nancy--LOL. I sure hope they liked those people! Did they end up hosting them overnight?

    Gina--I hear you. I wouldn't have back then, either. And it was one of Those Things when I simply felt compelled to do it. It was something that kind of came to me at once.

    BooksterOne--Yes, a godsmack, really. I didn't think of any negative consequences--a fact that alarmed Jared immensely--and I suppose I should be less...naïve? But my overarching point here is that while I was so fussy about such "First World Problems"--most of them so that I could go on a lovely vacation and taste and buy wines--here was this young couple with so many other basic concerns, and they simply made it happen any way they could. That was why I had to do something. It was time to try and salve my black, tarry conscience a little.

    nhmeanderings--Hi, and welcome to the Dept! Thanks for joining in. I think it's a always good idea to recall--even for a moment--a few of our own good fortunes. I know it was a wakeup call for me.

    Bug--Oh, I'm sure you would have helped. You're a very kind person, and both you and The Professor would have jumped at the chance.

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  11. I've been on summer hiatus for a while and fallen behind in both reading and writing. Loved the message (although I was also a little alarmed that you picked up strangers - unfortunately, the Good Samaritan has disappeared in an era of overcautious paranoia.)I have a friend who's in her early 50s, recently divorced with a mildly disabled son. She works at an office job from 9-5 all week long and spends several weeknights and the weekends working at a restaurant. When I start feeling sorry for myself about something stupid, I give some thought to her situation - which she handles with more grace and dignity than I think I could. Oh - I sent you a private e-mail to the 'e-mail me' address on your blog. My private e-mail ends in .org and occasionally gets knocked directly into Spam folders, so the next time you check your Yahoo account, if you don't see an email from me, take a look in your Spam folder. I sent you a link to a Huffington Post article that made me think of you immediately - even though I've never met you in person. And no, I'm not a stalker.
    Enjoy your wine tasting!

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  12. MsC--Sigh. I know. There is always someone far worse off than we are, and we can slather ourselves with the guilt we feel. That's one reason why I detest the platitude "God only gives us what we can handle." What unmitigated bullshit. Go look at psychiatric wards in hospitals or rehab facilities. How are those people handling things?

    Aside from that, I did get your email; thank you! I would never assume that a kind email from a reader was a stalker. I get lots of emails from readers, and only one has been a "creeper." That was brief and long past. Comes with the territory.

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  13. Perhaps grifters and criminals would look like a young couple trying to figure out how to get their groceries into a backpack, or perhaps they could have just taken advantage of an opportunity, but I think most people are OK. I mean, it's one thing to offer a ride and another to be asked, right? Shouldn't be, but you might not have felt so safe if they had asked.

    OK, here's a literary superhero joke to (perhaps) give you a chuckle.

    Who's Gatsby's least favorite superhero?
    Deadpool.

    Who's his favorite?
    Green Lantern.

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  14. J@jj--That's an excellent point that I had never thought of. The fact that they didn't ask for the ride. Had they run over to me, an older woman alone, and asked for a ride--probably I would have refused.

    Nice job on the Gatsby jokes.

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  15. I need those moments to smack myself out of self pity. I am rich beyond words when I compare myself to most of the world. I would do well to remember it.

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  16. Rainbow Motel--I think it's perfectly okay to have a few moments every now and again in which we feel sorry for ourselves, especially when no one else has the courtesy to do it for or with us. It's human and understandable. What I do agree with is that sometimes we tend to forget the things with which we are gifted. There will always be people worse off than we are; conversely, there will always be those who have it better than we do. It's important to acknowledge our own Good Things and be grateful, relevance aside.

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  17. I agree with j@jj. It is unfortunate but true: scammers and those who would do you harm are the ones who usually approach you asking for help. I often get asked in supermarket parking lots if I can just give someone spare change for the bus or to make a phone call. When there isn't a bus stop for miles around, and... where can you find a public phone anymore? Not where I shop, for sure. But most people have a cell phone, and it occurred to me once that it would be a good way for someone to rip off my phone, i.e., they ask for change to make a call, I say that I don't have any, but they can use my phone for a minute to call, and... bye-bye cell phone. Plus maybe my handbag.

    I have had a few good Samaritan moments in life, but unfortunately they are few and far between. My personal paranoia stems from being dragged several yards down the road from a moving car by people who just wanted to steal my purse (and did), but until they cut it loose and left me alive and shaking, I was convince they wanted to kill me. My ear was inches from the front tire of the car. On another occasion I was robbed at knife point in at an ATM. In the vestibule of a bank in broad daylight with several people coming in and out who had no idea that the man standing next to me was poking a sharp knife at my ribs while he whispered gently in my ear that he would stab me if I screamed and could I please withdraw the maximum on my account and hand him the cash. So I quietly withdrew the 50,000 pesetas (about 500 dollars) and handed the money over. Then he asked if my husband was around anywhere, so I lied and said yes, hoping he would do me no further harm. I don't know if it was because I looked so petrified or what, but he then peeled off a 5,000 peseta note out of the pile of cash I had just given him and said, "Here's something to get you by over the weekend." Very thoughtful, since having withdrawn the maximum I could from the ATM, I would indeed have been left bereft of cash for a few days.

    Back to the future: we get campus alerts all the time from the university police to be on the lookout for suspicious people in such-and-such a location due to muggings, etc. A few weeks ago, summer classes were cancelled one morning because a student alerted the local police that some nut job with a gun was headed to campus. He was apprehended before reaching campus, but stuff like this weighs heavy on my mind, especially since our jackass of a governor keeps signing fun bills such as the one that now permits concealed weapons on campus.

    The other day I was in a gift shop looking for souvenir T-shirts for a friend who had requested one. Half of their stock was standard "Hello from X" type of stuff, or the usual cowboy/cowgirl motif, and the other half all had messages related to the 2nd amendment with pictures of assault rifles, to wit: http://tinyurl.com/ndmumw2

    So for now, at least, my good deeds will pretty much be restricted to being a very wary guardian angel. I am glad that there are people like you out there to pick up the slack from slackers like me, though. :-)

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  18. Ortizzle--Goodness! If I had the history that you have, being victimized by criminals, I probably would not have helped. Plus, having the benefit of living in a small town--albeit one with a pretty virulent crime rate due to high unemployment--I felt pretty safe. JellyJules point is brilliant, however, and makes a huge difference.

    The teeshirt you linked to is awful. Ohio, though, has a horrible reputation as being very soft on guns. The only legislation that gets pushed through easily involves people being permitted to carry guns in the Statehouse, in parks, IN BARS, etc. I hate this state.

    Both of my boys have been at the business end of a gun--robbed by maniacs. Not here in my town, but one was in Cleveland in a parking lot, and the other was at work in a small suburb. I hate the prevalence of guns. More than that, I hate the stupid, circular arguments that gun-nuts use to argue in their favour.

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  19. I'm with you on the stupid, circular arguments. Such as "Guns don't kill. People kill." Why don't they get the expansion of that-- People WITH guns kill more, and more easily: they kill dozens in an instant when they have assault weapons firing hundreds of rounds per minute. A nut job with a knife would not kill quite as many people as someone with that kind of firearm.

    I'm gonna shut up now, because I am just getting into the cliché arguments that have been rolling around for yonks. Except to say that I was horrified that your sons have both been faced with a gun barrel in their faces. Holy crap! I can certainly understand their paranoia.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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