Yesterday as I was driving home from an errand, I saw a man standing in the median between lanes at a stoplight. The light turned red as I approached, and I wound up just a little bit past his position.
It was cold out for where I live, about 40 degrees, drizzly, and this fellow looked *rough*.
I’d been carrying a $100 bill around in my wallet for nearly a year. My stepson paid me that $100 from his 2019 Christmas money to buy a game credit for him online.
I thought about the fact that I’d been carrying this bill around with me for nearly a year. I hadn’t missed it or needed to spend it. It was just there, having little to no impact on my life.
I put my car in park, got my wallet out, and dug out the folded hundred. Without thinking further, I put on my mask, got out of my car and handed him the bill, with a nod and a “Merry Christmas, brother.”
The man just nodded back and said “thank you,” not looking at the bill at first. I walked quickly back to my car so I wouldn’t hold up traffic. About the time I got to my car, I heard him talking to me. His voice wasn’t loud, so I couldn’t really understand him. All I caught was a Merry Christmas in return. He looked a little emotional, but mostly, he just looked worn down.
As I drove away when the light turned green, part of me wanted to go back and get my hundred. Another part of me felt a tiny bit warm and fuzzy. Mostly, I felt uncertain.
I’m not rich. Pretty firmly middle class, actually, and I’d just given a complete stranger $100 of my money, which could have gone for Christmas presents, gas, groceries – any of dozens of things my family needs or buys this time of year.
I conjured up thoughts of “pay if forward”, “random acts of kindness” and all the other pop culture examples of what I’d just done. I tried to focus on the slight warm and fuzzy feeling I’d had, but it was illusive. I thought again about my urge to go back, but that wasn’t a strong impulse either. So I just drove home. By the time I pulled into my garage, I’d nearly forgotten about it.
We all make choices. The man who I gave the hundred to made millions of choices that led him to that moment, as had I. We both had problems that influenced our choices throughout our lives, though mine have likely been considerably fewer and less burdensome than his.
Was my decision in that moment good or bad? I’m sure people have differing opinions on that question.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I did something that felt in the moment like a truly generous gesture to someone much less fortunate than myself. Whether it was the right decision or not is a moot point. I hope that it made a positive difference in his day. I know it’s too minute and impersonal to make a difference in his life.
Maybe taking time to think, write and share about my experience will lead to some “a-ha” moment for me in the middle of the night. Maybe it will inspire you to do something nice for someone else. Let me know how that goes if you do. Maybe it will inspire you to be glad you still have the good sense God (or the Universe, or whatever is your thing) gave you, as opposed to me.
Have you ever done something like this, or had an unexpected gift from a stranger? I’d love to hear your experiences.