When I was growing up, my family did not have a lot of money. We didn’t own a car, so we either walked or took the bus when we needed to get somewhere. Luckily, we lived in Berkeley, where everything was pretty accessible on foot; while I can’t imagine doing this with my kids, it really was great for “building character.” 😉
When it was time for me to go to college, my mom and I made the trip on a Greyhound bus together. It was a long ride, and we left at dawn, but we were excited by the adventure, and the hours flew by. However, by the time we checked into our hotel, the sun had set, it was well into dinnertime, and we were tired and hungry. Luckily, since we were staying in a cute, touristy part of town, we could easily walk around and find a place to eat. We were both hoping for a special spot, as it would be our last night together for months, but since we hardly had any money, it also had to be affordable.
We had only peeked in a few windows and looked at a handful of menus when we came across the perfect restaurant. It was cozy, the menu looked delicious, and it was just fancy enough to be special – without being pretentious. The only problem was the cost. It was just too expensive for us. We spent a few minutes trying to figure out if we could give up something else (breakfast? lunch?), but we quickly realized that it was easily twice the amount we could afford. Sadly, we turned to walk away, when all of a sudden, an older gentleman seemed to materialize out of thin air. Smiling, he pressed a plastic chip into my mother’s hand. “I hope you can use this,” he said. Before we could respond, or even before we knew what he had given us, he walked away as suddenly as he had appeared.
My mother opened her hand to find a “two-for-one” chip, good for anything on the menu. We both stared at it in surprise, which quickly turned to delight. We jumped up and down with glee, then rushed in, where we had what turned out to be one of the most memorable meals of our lives – while the food was indeed delicious, the main reason was the pure joy we felt.
We think of that kind man often. With such a simple gesture, he gave us so much.
It’s always rewarding to hear other people’s stories of sharing and paying it forward – from lounge passes to candy bars to seats at the pool. Has anything great happened to you lately? Or have you been the one to share? I’d love to know!