July 24, 2010

The Half-Minute Helping Moment

Filed under: Neighborhood Sights,Random Thoughts — Ann @ 7:28 am

The Safeway parking lot was quite full; I parked at the end of a long row. As I walked toward the store, a man finished trunk-stashing his groceries and began the long trek to return his cart to the front of the building. Without thinking I said, “I’m on my way in; let me take that for you.” His face flashed surprise, gratitude; a smile, acceptance: “Sure! Thanks!”

As I shoved his metal bag-buggy into the cart-holder, it occurred to me that we shoppers could be doing this for each other all the time, forming these grocery cart brigades. A simple act of assistance; it made someone else’s life easier for 30 seconds.

July 16, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemonade

Filed under: Neighborhood Sights — Ann @ 11:19 am

I ended yesterday’s neighborhood walk as the afternoon approached its hottest and I was, to put it delicately, damp. Still a good half-mile from home and striding purposefully toward the finishing line of my front door, I saw a group of adults and children on the sidewalk — since I usually walk in the street, they presented no block to me. But, as I passed, I saw that the kids had a table and a Coleman cooler set up and, sure enough, they yelled out, “Wanna buy some lemonade?! Twenty-five cents!” I explained apologetically that I don’t carry money when I walk. Because I’d just heard on the news that BP had finally capped the months-long gush, I said to the adults, “Did you hear the news? The oil leak is finally capped!”

As the news sank in, the three adults made happy noises and, suddenly, the oldest girl-child said, “You can have the lemonade for free if you want.” Now, I don’t know if she was taking pity on my sweaty self, or whether my sharing the good news had filled her with the ade of human kindness, or whether she just wanted the chance, finally, to share her drink with someone (how good could the summertime-drink business be in this economy?), but I certainly wasn’t going to say no. Stepping forward I said, “Sure, that’d be great! Let’s see how good this is.”

The three children worked in harmony to fix the cup of lemonade: one getting the ingredients out of the cooler, one grabbing a cup, and one handing me their finished product with the adorable endorsement of, “It’s tangy, but it’s good.” And she was right — it was just what I needed in that shimmering heat. As I thanked them, one of the adults, obviously a mother, said, “Well, you know, it’s not really free. You have to now do something nice for someone else….you have to pay it forward.”

Bear in mind that it wasn’t the little girl who attached this string to the gift — it was one of the adults; that makes a difference in setting forth the following. Because, for me, this is one of those life-moments when my brain shoots off in a thousand different directions, like a schizophrenic fireworks display. You have to admit, there are so many varied reactions one could have to being quoted a line from a wretched Helen Hunt movie and having it proffered as moral imperative. I have a few dear but cynical friends who might think, “It’s lemonade, get over yourself, lady” and they could not be faulted. Or one could think, “What a great idea, I love this woman!” and one could not faulted. Or one could rest somewhere between those two poles. Frankly, I’m still not sure how I feel about it but, thankfully, since recently giving myself permission to Not Have An Opinion As To Everything, I realize I can just let it wash over me like a summer lawn sprinkler.

And so, in that moment, I said, “Sure, I can do that!” I haven’t yet figured out what my pay-it-forward act will be (a deal is a deal, after all — I must come through). Maybe I’ll just walk back down there today and give them five bucks. But something tells me that more than that is expected of me, and perhaps I should keep searching. I’ll keep you posted.

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