A little good can go a long way.
I discovered this over recent months as frustration with issues like homelessness, COVID and the divisiveness in this country began to weigh on my shoulders like a 10 pound sack of russets.
I wondered, “What could I, one small speck of a human being, do to improve things?”
The answer, I find, is easier than it appears.
I typically give to Coachella Valley nonprofits – FIND Food Bank, The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, etc. My donations have increased since the pandemic as nothing pries my tight wallet open like the sight of vehicles lined along Avenida Caballeros with those seeking food to keep their families fed.
Before Thanksgiving, I was at Smoketree Plaza when I saw a “Fill This Bus” event going on. Without a thought, I walked into Ralphs and filled a bag with the groceries I would want to see on my Thanksgiving table. Into the bus they went!
It felt great to do that spur of the moment “good-deed-doing” and it gave me a spiritual boost for a few days.
Turns out, one shot wasn’t enough and I soon needed another fix. I began looking for more good-deed-doing opportunities. Remember that movie, “Pay it Forward”? Over the years I kept the concept in my head, although I didn’t act on it often enough.
Finally, one day a few weeks ago I was in line at the 99 Cents Store (the best place to get those pumice stone toilet cleaners). A lady stood before me and seeing I only had a few items, asked, “Would you like to go ahead of me?”
Since I retired a few years ago, I have forced myself to take things more slowly and she appeared a bit rushed, so I said, “Thanks. I’m good.”
As we waited, we chatted about our mutual distaste of broken tortilla chips as she toyed with a bag she had in her hands. Her clothes were stained and she thumbed through her purse with that “I hope I have enough to pay for this” look.
The clerk began ringing up her items.
Suddenly, it went off like a lightbulb in my dim brain. “Pay it forward!”
When the clerk finished ringing up her items, I blurted out: “Would it be okay for me to get these for you? I need to do a good deed today.”
She looked at me in disbelief, while perhaps wondering “Is he some sort of trafficker who’s gonna shove me into a van outside?”
She responded. “Really? Are you serious?”
“Yeah, if that’s okay with you.”
She smiled as wide as could be and said, “That would be really kind. Are you sure?”
I had never been so sure.
After she left, the clerk said, “Hey man, that was good of you. The world needs more of that!”
I thought, yes we do as I walked out into the parking lot. The woman ran up to me, stuffed a business card in my hand and said if I ever needed help to call her.
Elvira was a housecleaner.
I got in my car and suddenly started weeping. I cannot describe the feeling of gratitude I had as I recalled times in my life when I was struggling and never thought I’d get ahead. Now, I was in the position to share my blessings and it made me feel good to do so.
A few weeks later, I was in a particularly foul mood and decided to visit Taco Bell (don’t judge) as I had a Dorito taco craving (I said don’t judge). I was looking at the menu, barely aware of the woman who was mumbling to my left. She said, “Go right ahead, I can’t make up my mind” followed by all this other gibberish. I looked over and saw she was likely a homeless person who was deep in a conversation with herself.
I ordered my food and she continued talking and trying to make sense out of the menu. I smiled at her and without blinking, told the clerk, “I’m gonna pay for her order.”
I turned to the woman and said, “What should we get you to eat? My treat.”
She said tacos and “French fries, I want French fries.” The clerk smiled, “We don’t have fries.”
I was thinking, “She might be a regular here.”
We went back to selecting her food. It was difficult as she changed her choices constantly and asked for fries a second time. At that point, I said, “How about we get you a burrito box?” or whatever the current special was.
She said thank you and a whole bunch of other things I couldn’t understand. I paid for her meal and handed her the receipt.
“You sure you don’t need it?” she asked gingerly.
“No, you keep it.”
I sat down to eat my lunch and soon she got hers.
While dining, I looked over at her as she ate. It was as though all these flies were above her head talking to her at the same time as she was trying to eat. She would chew, talk and whisk them away, chew, talk and whisk.
As I looked more closely, I noticed she looked about as well kept as a homeless person could be. I thought, “She might have been somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s….”
And, amidst all these voices in her head, she was able to express thanks over the kindness of a stranger. I felt humility rise in my throat as I once again felt gratitude.
My mood suddenly lifted like clouds breaking in the sky, and the Dorito taco had never tasted so good.
I noticed that this time I didn’t even hesitate to step in and help. It felt natural and I knew it was the right thing to do.
I mentioned my newfound hobby to a friend and he said, “Don’t you think you’re being presumptuous? Assuming people need your help?”
It didn’t matter, I explained. They hadn’t asked me for anything. I volunteered freely and the benefit I received far outweighed any of my good-deed-doing.
I have decided to add good-deed-doing to my arsenal of self-maintenance tools. I mean if we care for our physical and mental health, why not do the same for our spiritual well-being? Plus, if each of us made an effort to do one kind thing for a stranger every now and then, imagine how the world could change!
This I have learned because a little good-deed-doing goes a long way.
And with that, I end this as “Poolside From PS.”