Pay it Forward
Please give me some leeway on this particular blog. During one of the many nights of sitting alone in my hotel room while traveling for work I began poking around the internet for blog ideas. I’ve become rather fond of writing a few times a week and it is something I want to keep doing. However, I was concerned that coming up with topics to write about would soon run dry. I’ve been lucky so far that I have been able to keep up but I wanted to make sure I had an idea generator of sorts to keep the gates open.
With that in mind, I joined a mailing list that sends a daily email with a blog idea. The first email I received was titled Pay it Forward. The text of the email was “tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own”. The first thing that came to mind wasn’t a pay it forward event, per se, but was just something I did to help someone else. These are their stories (Note: This Law & Order: SVU reference is included for the amusement of Rizzo. You are welcome).
Every Friday during the summer in our little town of Herndon, Virginia, the local government hosts an event called Friday Night Live. It is a great, family friendly event that I highly recommend for anyone in the area. There is always a band on stage, almost always a cover band, playing rocking hits that everyone enjoys. There is food on sale from local vendors such as Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern, JJ Deli, and TurCuise. Adult beverages are available consisting of your typical event fare such as Bud Light but also a ‘Beer of the Month’ which is usually a fairly decent craft beer. There is lots of room for kids to dance and play up front near the stage. Everyone has a great time.
We are lucky to live close enough that, if we chose to, we can walk up to the event to avoid some parking drama (which hasn’t been a problem because there is quite a bit of parking) or just to get some extra exercise. Usually one of us drives up to the event while the other walks, that way we have a quick transportation method to get Cece back for bedtime. After one of our Friday Night Live excursions we were packing up the van and I decided I’d like to walk back to the house. I had not worked out at all that day, had consumed a few too many calories at the event, and need to get out and stretch my legs.
With Rizzo and Cece safely on their way I began my stroll home. It’s a little over a mile and a half from downtown Herndon where the show is held to the front door of our house so it’s not as if I was climbing Kilimanjaro but it felt good to get in some sort of movement. I was no more than 500 yards into the walk when I saw someone up ahead of me lugging copious amounts of grocery bags. I was quickly catching up with this person as they had to stop often to sit the bags down to rest and rearrange the bags in order to carry them.
The closer I got the more I could see. The person was a young kid, maybe 15 or 16, and he was carrying what appeared to be 75 to 100 pounds of grocery bags. He had at least a dozen plastic shopping bags in each hand and was starting to struggle to get them moving. He was also a scrawny young kid, probably weighing in at no more than 120 pounds himself.
I considered walking by as we fat Americans are often want to do, not wanting to interfere, pry, or creep out another person but the way this guy was struggling I couldn’t pass him by. As I caught up with the kid I said it looks like he could use a hand and would he mind if I helped to carry the load.
I expected him to just tell me no thanks as we, as fat Americans, are also very skeptical of strangers offering to help. No one just lends a hand to a neighbor these days just to be helpful, am I right? I was pleasantly surprised when he accepted my offer to help. I grabbed most of the bags off the ground where he was resting them (this is not me saying “look how strong I am because I can carry all these bag!” but this slight framed kid looked like he could use the break), leaving 3 or 4 for him to carry, and we went on our way.
His name was Brian (or perhaps Bryan). He was a perfectly pleasant and typical teenager. His mom had made him walk up the street to the grocery store to stock up on supplies. They didn’t have a car so he had to carry everything back himself. Brian told me that one of his buddies was supposed to go to the store with him but he got a better offer to hang out with friends. He wished he could afford a scooter so he could ride his scooter back with the bags on the handle bars instead of walking. He didn’t know his dad so it was just him and his mom living in the townhouse. We walked about a mile back towards the town hauling the load of groceries while the kid kept talking and talking.
Brian lived in a townhouse in an area of low-income housing but it seemed like a reasonably safe place. He opened the unlocked door and screamed “Mom, I’m back with the groceries” but I didn’t hear anyone reply. The house had a thick smell of smoke. The kitchen was a mess with a used bowl sitting on the kitchen table, still half full of milk and Fruit Loops. I dropped the groceries gently on the ground near the refrigerator. Brian thanked me for the help and extended his hand. I took his and said I was glad I could help. I can’t say I know many teenagers but for some reason shaking hands doesn’t seem like something that they would do, especially with strangers. I turned, walked out the door closing it behind me, and started on my way.
I’m proud of what I did to help out a stranger. Usually, I’m hesitant to help strangers only because I don’t want to freak them out or scare them. Hopefully my story doesn’t sound too much like I’m trying to tell a story about how cool I am because I was the nice guy helping out a young kid. What I do hope is that we can all be friendlier and help out each other then maybe, someday, we will actually become neighbors instead of strangers that happen to live next to each other.