Random Acts Of Kindness
Excerpted with permission from Random Acts Of
Kindness, Conari Press, 1144 65th St #B Emeryville CA 94608, 800-685-9595
Every day I walk down to the mall to get a cup of cappuccino, and every day I get hit up for spare change. Every day. The panhandlers all have these wonderful stories but you never know what to believe. After a while it gets to be an irritation, and then I find myself getting upset that I'm so irritated over what is really just spare change. One day this person came up to me and said, "I just ran out of gas. My car is about six blocks away from here I have two kids in the car and I'm trying to get back home."
I said to myself, Here we go again, but for some reason I gave him $10. Then I went on and got my cappuccino. As I was walking back to my office, I again saw the man standing by his car, which had run out of gas right in front of my office. Seeing me, he came over and said, "Thank you, but I don't need the full ten," and handed me $2.
Now I find that being asked for money no longer bothers me and I give whatever I can every time I get the chance.
We had just searched a small village that had been suspected of harboring Viet Cong. We really tore the place up - it wasn't hard to do - but found nothing. Just up the trail from the village we were ambushed. I got hit and don't remember anything more until I woke up with a very old Vietnamese woman leaning over me. Before I passed out again I remembered seeing her in the village we had just destroyed and I knew I was going to die. When I woke again, the hole in my left side had been cleaned land bandaged, and the woman was leaning over me again offering me a cup of warm tea. As I was drinking the tea and wondering why I was still alive, a helicopter landed nearby to take me back. The woman quietly got up and disappeared down the trail.
I had just graduated from college and had gone back to the town I grew up in to visit friends. My parents had sold the family home a few years back and moved out of state so I also took the opportunity to drive by the old house just to see it. Out in the front yard, perched in "my" giant oak tree, was a boy about ten years old. I stopped the car, went over to introduce myself, and told the boy that when I was his age I practically lived in that tree. He thought that was real funny because he said his mother was always telling people that he lives in that tree.
While we were standing there talking, laughing, and feeling very good about our shared tree, a car drove up to the curb right in front of us. A middle-aged man got out of the driver's side, came around to the passenger side, and helped a very frail-looking old man out of the car. I guess we were both staring, but the old man just walked right up to the tree, patted it on the side, looked at us, and said, "I planted this tree sixty years ago when there was nothing here but fields. I still like to come visit it now and then." Then he turned around, got back into the car, and drove away. We were both so shocked we didn't say a word until after the old man had left. Then the boy just looked at me and said, "Wow."
My girl friend and I are avid backpackers. I can't even describe the feeling I get after we lock up the car and hit the trail, and every step is one step farther into the hills and one step farther away from all the crazy stuff that goes on in the world. In my mind it is such a different reality once we are on the trail, and I guess that is why I always put all my "worldly" things in a small green zip-up bag and stuff it away in a corner of my backpack. I mean everything - my wallet, with all my ID, credit cards, license, etc., all my money, my keys - everything you need to survive in the modern world and everything that is irrelevant back in the woods.
This particular trip was a five-day trek though some of the most beautiful parts of the Cascades. As we headed back down toward the parking area where we had left the car, I was really sad to be leaving what to me was such a simple and beautiful way of living. I could just feel the tension and anxiety beginning to creep back into my body as we got closer and closer to civilization.
When we finally got to the car there was a small piece of paper tucked under the windshield-wiper blade that read, "left rear tire." I walked back and looked at the left rear tire but it was fine. The note made no sense to me at all - three seconds back into the world and already lunacy, Then I started fishing through my backpack for my green bag. It wasn't there. I looked back at the left rear tire - there was the bag. I have no idea when I lost it, or how they ever found my car amid all the possible parking places in that part of the Cascades. My keys, my wallet, nearly $100 in cash, all neatly tucked in my zip-up green bag sitting on top of my left rear tire. Thank you, whoever you are, you gave me back much more than you know.