Thursday, June 4, 2009

I paid it forward... my lesson in giving during our jaded era

Image above found here.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed into my apartment after running some errands. As I hustled to the courtyard on the 90 degree day, I was approached by a man who stated "Oh, good. Maybe you can help me." I turned to face him hesitantly and found myself really wondering what he was about to need help with. He was about 6'3" tall, in a seemingly expensive suit, kempt and looked to be in his fifties. He looked like a normal, respectable businessman - except he was sweating profusely and breathing heavily.

"Yes?" I asked him.

He began - "Hi Miss, I ran out of gas at the very bottom of that hill [my apartment sits atop a long road which slopes down quickly, making a jaunt up it quite the exercise] and I left my wallet at home and my wife is not answering her phone [expensive Blackberry was in hand] and I was wondering if I could borrow about $5-$10 to get some gas, I can bring it back to you tomorrow."

Ok. Pause. First off, I didn't have any money at all, so I was unable to offer him cash. But also, here was a man in his Fifties, asking a young girl for money. It felt off-kilter, so I told him the truth: I didn't have any cash.

"That's ok," he said, wiping his brow from the ever-persistent sweat. "I can find someone else to help me, thanks!" And with that, he continued past my apartment and towards the shopping area behind it.

As I tarried into my apartment, I couldn't shake the feeling of that man needing help. Sure it was weird and perhaps he was lying but I couldn't rid myself of the guilt of not being able to help someone who was in a tough predicament. I started to think about my own Dad, a comparison made by the similarity in assumed lifestyle of my Dad vs this man - business man, middle-aged, Dad, Husband, etc. -and the thought of no one helping him if he needed it. The man seemed normal enough and his story did make sense with his sweating, his panting from climbing the hill... right after setting up lunch for myself, I decided I couldn't eat until I tried, so I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed outside.

I jumped into my car and drove to the Mini Mart in the shopping center behind me. There are 2 gas stations which surround the perimeter. As I pulled into the Mart, I saw him walking away - empty handed- from one. Good sign. He had legitimately tried to get gas. Perhaps his story was true.

I rushed into the store, pulled out a twenty from the ATM, bought a water bottle and got the change before shooting back out into my car, in the hopes of finding him again.

I pulled into the second gas station parking lot and he was nowhere to be found. I asked the attendant if a man had been here needing help, he said "Oh yes, that man. We can not help people with no money," and pointed me across the way where the man was continuing to make rounds for anyone that could lend him a hand.

I shouted, "HEY SIR!" to him and recognizing me from before, he started heading back my way, this time his sweat permeated his expensive shirt.

I told him I felt for him and pulled out cash, then I handed him $10 and the bottled water.

His face lit up, "Ohmygoodness, that was so sweet of you. Thank you!" He tore open the water and started drinking, "What is your name? How can I get in touch with you to pay you back tomorrow?"

I told him not to worry about it and to just pay it forward when someone else needed help. Cheesy as that was, I actually felt like that was the truth. I almost didn't pay my blessings forward in helping him.

I admit, I was jaded at first. Young, attractive girls get talked to all the time that it almost becomes belaboring. You get tired of the lame attention, the lame requests from lame guys, so much so that you almost forget that some people are not approaching you for that reason at all. Not to mention, I would never be stranded with no gas without being able to get help quickly. Guys help women out all the time and I've never been stuck somewhere without a stranger willing to help me. Just a perk of being a girl.

I still wasn't 100% positive that he was telling me the whole truth, but I figured it didn't matter. If he was lying then he could have the 10 dollars and enjoy the water and I would feel a bit duped but still happy that in good faith, I was trying to help someone who found themselves in a crummy situation.

As I pulled onto the street in my car to head back home, I passed the gas station.

The man was standing drinking his water as his gas canister was being filled.

I felt good all day. :)

6 comments:

Shanin said...

i can SO picture you doing that and looking for him and worrying. love it so much.

jociegal said...

"Young, attractive girls get talked to all the time that it almost becomes belaboring." - good to know how you see yourself. (cue eye-roll from you)KIDDING! Nice job. That part about thinking if that was one of our parents in that situation made me sad. Nice work sista.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

hahah well you're in that category too! You know what I mean.

Pamela Bwell said...

When you first began to tell me this story, I was upset, thinking that you had put yourself in harm's way. But I am proud of you, Caitlin, for following your instincts and following through to really help someone who truly needed it, and not allowing the prevailing belief that everyone is a con to deter you from doing a simple kindness. The water bottle was what really touched me.

Jordan The Grill GUy said...

that is the sweetest thing catie

Miranda said...

uhm i literally just teared up thinking of how sweet you are. pms much?