Thinking, without a dime

3 Jul

Without spending a dime, many people have made my day or even had profound impacts on my life.  Think back over your life, what have people done for you that had a major impact?

I think back to a Sunday on a Labor Day weekend, it seems practically a lifetime ago now, but it was about 1994, I guess.  I was headed back to Arizona after a disastrous 18 month stint in Minnesota with my two kids and 2 cats in the car, and a small Uhaul trailer behind my Ford Escort wagon.  It had not been a very good trip, we’d spent nearly ten times the amount of money a trip without the trailer had cost me just a month before, and we were really getting short on money for traveling.  We were on I-40 near Tucumcari, New Mexico.   I probably had less than $15 left, when that ominous BOOM was heard and the trailer started whipping behind the car.

I managed to get slowed down, get that trailer back under control, and get the car over to the side of the road.  A tire that had been new just two  months before was now bald as a baby’s butt and had blown out through the steel belt when the rubber gave way.  The kids were given strict orders to NOT get out no matter what, as traffic whizzed by at 70+ mph just a few feet away on that Sunday morning, and I started unloading the back end to get to the spare tire.  There was a lot of stuff to set out alongside the car, stuff like the television, vcr, computer, etc. that wasn’t packed into the trailer.

I’d probably spent a half hour unloading, and finally had it to where I could get to the spare and the jack.  I put the jack into place and nearly cried.  The car was lower than the lowest setting on the jack, and now I was going to have to unhitch the trailer and hope the car moved up enough to get the jack into place, and then rehitch the whole thing again.

About that time, a man and his teenage son pulled their pickup off in front of my car and got out, coming back to where I was standing, drenched in sweat and probably looking like I wanted to cry since that was how I felt.  They offered their help and I accepted it, desperate to solve the problem and knowing that I was in a tough situation.  With their help, the bumper could be lifted, the jack put into place, and the tire was soon changed.  The flat went into the car, the jack was replaced, the car was reloaded, and we were back on our way.

That man and his son didn’t have to stop and help me.  They were nice and neat and clean when they stopped, but they weren’t anymore when they left.  I couldn’t give them any money, I had  none to spare.  I was terrified, I didn’t know if I’d make it all the way to Arizona with the way the car had been guzzling gas.  I had no spare now either.

I did make it, I think I had about $5 in change left when we arrived at my mother’s house.  We still had no spare, and there was very little gas left in the car.

I often think about that man and his son.  I truly and deeply appreciated their taking time out of their life to help me.  I can never repay them, I don’t know their names or where they were even from.

But there is a way to repay that favor.  It’s called paying it forward.  Every time I hand a dollar to some homeless person, offer a ride to someone who is stranded, or stop to help someone alongside the road…I’m paying that forward.  I’ve done it for years, and I am barely making the interest payments on that original favor from that man and his son.  I’ll never get it paid off, but that’s okay.  Each time I help someone, I hope that they too will someday pay it forward.

Paying it forward is one way to make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time.  Try it.  You never know who it is that you are helping you know.  Even the guy who rescued Fats Domino from his flooded house didn’t know who he was rescuing.  All he knew was that he was rescuing an elderly man who was stranded by flood water…until later.  In the long run, does it matter if you are rescuing someone important or famous…or somebody who pays it forward…or someone who is on the last leg of their lifetime journey?

Start a trend.  Help someone out before this weekend is over.  Maybe they are stuck in the mud, broke down, lost, broke, stranded, hopeless, homeless, or whatever.  Put out your hand and do something.  It doesn’t have to be money.  It can be a ride, a phone call, or even directions.

Pay it forward, make the world better one small act of kindness at a time.

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