"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Monday, March 17, 2014


I used to dislike the term "random acts of kindness."  I thought it was trite and overused.  Besides [she said cynically!] who really does you a favor without expecting anything in return?  Then a while back on Facebook I shared a post about being kind to strangers (and animals) as they may be angels in disguise. Shall I tell you a story about an angel I met when I wasn't, by any means, expecting it? Shall I tell you two?  And were they angels, or were they simply doing a random act of kindness?  I believe they certainly were, in fact, angels.  But I'll let you decide.

Several years ago a friend called me from a town about 30 miles from here (there were phone booths then) and said his car had broken down on the highway. He'd managed to limp it into a closed garage, but was stuck, and asked if I could come and get him. Of course, I said. He tried to tell me where he was, but the town was totally unfamiliar to me (it isn't now!) I got off an exit I recognized was wrong, and, frustrated, went into a convenience store hoping to get some help.

There was a line at the cash register and one customer was a young African-American kid who -- I am going to be very politically incorrect here, please forgive me -- you might get quite nervous meeting in an alleyway or "bad" section of town. Then suddenly he turned to me - specifically to ME, just standing in the line - and said "You're lost, aren't you? Where do you want to go? I'll help you out." It did occur to me to wonder how he could possibly know that...but I was lost, and more than ready to take him up on his offer. I tried explaining where the garage and my friend were. "Gotcha," he said, "Follow me. I'm going right onto the highway - when you see my signal you go straight about a mile and it's on your right.  Don't follow me onto the highway, just keep straight.  When I signal you."

I had my misgivings and I didn't feel totally comfortable. But the kid finished his purchase (whatever it was) and went out and jumped into a low-slung car, and I got in mine. He led me through curving city streets (kinda fast) and I did my best to keep up with him. It wasn't long until we hit "civilization" though, and sure enough we were on a main drag with freeways branching off. A little way down the road his car slowed, and he put his right signal on and stuck his left arm out the window, pointing for me to go straight. I felt great calmness finally, and sure enough, about a mile down the road, there was my friend standing in the parking lot of the
of the garage waiting for me. "Thought you'd never make it!" he said jokingly. I smiled and said "Someone showed me the way."

Angel story two: I was in Walmart the other day buying some new windshield wipers (mine were just flapping rubber) and I didn't see my year of car listed in the directory, so I was confused. I could have asked an employee, but there was a young man in that aisle (along with a VERY pierced young lady with the sweetest smile) and though I know it's sexist, I figured he was just the right age to know something about cars AND he was a GUY. So I said "Excuse me, can I ask you a question?" He said "Sure!" And I asked him whether wipers for a 2001 Explorer would fit a 2000. "Oh yeah, no problem," he said. He showed me the different lengths and explained them. "You'll be fine with these but you ought to get two," he said, "So you'll know you replaced them the same time." I agreed (these weren't the expensive ones); he asked if my back wiper (almost said "rear wiper!) was okay, and I told him I thought it was.

Then imagine my surprise when he smiled and said "If you're going to be here awhile I'll go out and put them on for you." For some reason I was speechless and could just raise my hand up, and I finally said to the girl "He's earned his place in Heaven." She smiled again. "We have a little shopping to do," he said, "And then I'll look for you." "I'll make sure I'm here!" I said. I sat on a bench by the toilet seats and waited about 40 minutes, wishing I could call my mom who was out in the car to tell her I hadn't been killed by a falling display of Ricola lozenges or something.

Finally I decided he'd forgotten or had given me some B.S. so I went to the checkout. The kid was coming in through the front door of the store. He grinned, pointed to me and came over and said "I found your car - I thought you'd be waiting there and I think I scared your friend half to death!" (Mom IS my friend, lol.) We walked out together and I said "You know, you're a very good guy and your parents must have raised you right and you can tell 'em I said so." But "I'm pretty much alone," he said, "I've been on my own since I was fourteen." Why did that not surprise me? Some kids really do come from toxic parents who consider them "disposable" - and some of these are the greatest kids ever. "I've had some misfortune in my life," he went on to say, "And if I can make sure somebody else doesn't, then I'm happy." Sure, this could all be him playing me, for some reason.  I don't think so though.  His good energy was off the charts.

He undid the packages and snapped the new wipers in while I told Ma yes, we DID make that arrangement! I gathered the old wipers and trash from his arms (he was going to take them, too, I think, and looked surprised) and thanked him profusely, of course, and asked him his name - "Brett," he said.   I stuck the old stuff in the back seat and noticed my mother rummaging in her purse, looking for a little something to give Brett for being so kind.  Which only makes sense.  She was still rummaging while I still stood outside -- but that's my mother.
Of course I could have figured out how to put the wipers in myself, or asked my brother to do it. But Brett did it. I couldn't help but hug him. Then he walked off quickly -- very quickly -- as I got in the car, before we could even hand him any money. (And who knows whether or not he would've taken it?  My significant other said that the purity and crispness of this whole story was perfect and money would have tinkered with it and troubled it somehow.)  Anyway I said again, shaking my head.  "He's earned his place in Heaven, that kid!" And then I smiled and thought; I believe, in fact, young as he was, he'd no doubt earned that place a long time ago.

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