Good news appears to be the order of the day for me today. Without being able to go into specifics, let me admit that I am tickled pink. It's nice when things unfold as expected.
Whenever good things happen in quick succession, I can't help but reflect back when things weren't so rosy. I don't live in the past, in fact quite the contrary, but I do have some 'benchmark' occasions that help me understand how much things have changed for me over the years.
One example, is an occasion in 1968 or so, when my brother and I operated a couple of service stations to help us pay the bills for our fledgling courier company. We worked sixteen hours a day, for virtually no money, just trying to make ends meet. A doctor, a customer of ours, pulled in one day, took one look at me, handed me a five-dollar bill, and said: "Go buy yourself a meal."
I'm a very proud person. I don't like to accept anything from anyone. Maybe that is why I don't recall accepting the money. My brother, however, insists that I did take it. If I did, that would indicate to me how bad things really were. I would rather starve than take a handout from anyone.
Years earlier, in 1962, I had left home at age 17 to 'find myself.' I worked two eight-hour shifts daily, in a country club in Stratford, Ontario. During the day I was a janitor's helper, at night I washed dishes. Weekends, I would drive home to St. Catharines to visit friends and family.
One weekend, I was absolutely broke. I couldn't afford food, or the gasoline (at about 38 cents per gallon) to drive to my parents' home, so I sat dejectedly on a picnic table in a public park in the centre of Stratford. I was lost in thought, didn't notice that someone had approached me, and was startled when a girl of about my age spoke to me. I re-played her words in my head and realized that she had asked me if something was wrong. A supporting clue was the two-dollar bill (yes, we really did have them in Canada at that time) that she was holding out to me. I can only imagine how pathetic I must have looked in order for a stranger to feel compelled to offer me money. I was embarrassed, but hungry enough so that I made the girl give me her name and address so that I could return her money after I got my next paycheck. She was pretty, friendly, and very nice, but I was so ashamed that I had accepted her money that, aside from visiting her home to pay her back, I never saw her again. What can I say? I was an idiot.
Sometimes, we have to remember the kindnesses of strangers. Something compelled these people to approach me, unbidden, and to offer me money when I was down and out. I try to remember these things when I am asked for money. It is easy to be judgemental and simply to say no all the time, as I do if I think someone is merely going to spend the money on a bottle of rotgut wine. Sometimes though, the need is genuine and our paltry offerings actually help in a significant way.
Sometimes, because I do have a sense of humour, even as far as charlatans and grifters are concerned, I hand over money even when I know full well where it will be spent. A case in point was one day in Chapleau, Ontario, when a drunk approached me on the street, and asked me if he could have a dollar to be used as a down payment on a liquor store. I laughed and handed him his dollar.
So, I'm in a really good mood today. It's too bad I don't know anymore who that girl in Stratford, Ontario was. I would like to pay her interest on the money she extended to me that day. Do you think a heartfelt "Thank you!" and a big hug would qualify?
Or, maybe by some strange co-incidence, she will chance on this blog post, recognize herself, and know how much her kindness was appreciated.