“What are some things you have done?” is what Damond Nollan asked recently when he spoke about performing a random act of kindness. Believe it or not (for those of you who think you know me so well :-p), I do little things all the time, but I don’t really think about it much so it was hard for me to come up with an answer. Then I remembered something that happened about a month ago…
I wasn’t having a particularly bad day, but I wasn’t in the best of moods either. When I get like this, I like to get out and drive… just drive. I was driving down the street (because the driving on sidewalks is illegal, apparently) and I saw this guy walking along the road. It must’ve been 100° outside. He was carrying a small suitcase in one hand and an overstuffed garment bag over his other shoulder. Now, I know you’re not supposed to pick up strangers along side of the road. But you should’ve seen this poor guy.
As I got closer to him, my fist instinct was to stop and pick him up. Then I thought about that whole picking-up-strangers thing and passed him. I looked into the rear view mirror and the next thing I know, the car turned into the next parking lot entrance ahead. So I drove the car around and pulled up next to him, rolled down the window and asked him if he needed a lift. He looked at me, then looked at the car, then back at me (mabye the Old Spice guy should be telling this story), and nodded his head. His shirt was completely soaked from sweat. He got in and said he wasn’t going too much further, then thanked me.
We started talking. He told me he had been walking all day, from one store to another all over town, filling out job applications. He had stopped at the Salvation Army where he cashed in a voucher for some clothes and was now on his way back to the homeless shelter where he had been for almost a month now. That’s why the suitcase and the garment bag, I gathered.
He and a friend of his from California had decided to go to Florida for whatever reason. Unfortunately for this guy, his so-called friend ditched him and now he was stuck in this small little town. He was surprised when I told him that I had been homeless too, with two kids in tow. Especially since I was driving this really nice, practically brand-new car. We traded stories for a couple of minutes before we reached the shelter (which would’ve been at least another two miles of walking for him). He got out of the car, I handed a $10 bill (which was all I had on me at the time). He said thank you, closed the door and that was it.
For the rest of the day, memories of how it felt to be alone, abandoned, desperate, unloved and living in a homeless shelter with two kids under the age of three, filled my thoughts. That was such a dark time for me. Then I began thinking about how I was able (with God’s (or some higher power) help) to pull through it. I thought about everything I have now and how far I had come from that dark place… and how grateful and generally happy I am now.
So what started out as one random act of kindness by giving some stranger a lift, ended in a stranger giving me a lift… in my mood and brightening up my day by reminding me of what I have, where I am, and how much I’m loved. Meeting him was exactly what I needed that day. Funny how things work sometimes.