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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paying it Forward


So the movie Pay it Forward actually kinda sucked. Am I wrong here? I mean Helen Hunt rocked it in her Mad About You days, and Haley Joel Osment was still cute then, but overall this movie blew chunks.

But the concept of paying it forward has really stuck with me. Call it karma. Call it divine justice. Call it what you will.

Case in point:

A tow headed young boy of four asks Santa for a train set for Christmas. The real deal. With lights, pretend steam blowing from the engine, tiny faux trees and conductors, a track that doesn't break if someone creaks on the floor next to it. A Lionel. Unparalled in the world of trainmanship. Yes, I realize that's not a word. Work with me and don't act as if you don't know what I mean. This little boy just wants a train set. A perfect train set. And so his grandmother goes on a hunt. A hunt for a steal. More than a bargain. She's become a highway robber.

Goodwill is about to answer this tow headed boy's dreams. Grandma finds a complete train set in fine working condition. For 90 bucks. Oh, excessive for a four-year old, but answering his dreams on Christmas morning is priceless. Thanks for ruining that term, by the way, MasterCard. Grandma collects the various cars, tracks, and accoutrements. She lugs it all to the counter and starts counting out her cash in fives and tens. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty...Eighty. Sounds of rifling through change, receipts, business cards, expired McDonald's coupons, to-do lists fill the air that seems to stand still. A lousy ten dollars short. No train for her fair haired grandson. Shoulders slumped, face forlorn, she gathers the pieces to return them to their spot on the shelf in back.

In sashays an old friend. "Why the long face?" she asks.

Grandma can barely summon an answer. She manages to faintly gesture to the train and mutters something about her four-year old grandson asking Santa for a train set. She's defeated and lacks the energy to catch up on niceties with this old chum.

"Ten bucks?! Why here's ten dollars! Merry Christmas to you and your grandson!"

And so the universe winked in its wily way, reminding her who's in charge.

You see, a few weeks ago this grandmother met a man at Goodwill. This very same shop. A man clean from months of treatment and job training. A man about to graduate to a new, sober life. He wanted to dress the part of success. He had borrowed a tie and had gently used pants in hand. Now if only he could find a collared shirt in which the collar buttoned snugly without choking his Adam's apple when he gulped. He relayed his story in casual yet ripely emotional conversation as they both pecked through the racks of discarded Joseph A. Banks oxford shirts. He hadn't enough money for a proper shirt and he dragged his feet as he somberly walked away, feeling spent, tired, sad,defeated once again.

Grandma slipped him a ten spot.

And the universe paid her back. Sobering indeed.
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3 comments:

The Cube Monkey said...

That's an awesome story. And yes, I mean awesome in every sense of the word. =)
I loved that movie. And it touched me as well. I try to pay it forward whenever I can. =)

ilinap said...

Oh Cube Monkey, I think we can definitely hang and have a cocktail together but we definitely can't go to the movies together! Ach, we'd spend too much blabbering and pissing off the other movie goers anyway. Happy New Year!

Jessica McFadden said...

Great post! I'm trying to collect kindness stories too on my blog:
http://www.aparentinsilverspring.com/2009/01/kindness-is-infectious-taking-kindness.html

Linking to yours!!