Paying It Forward

snowy parking lot

After the recent blizzard, parking lots were a mess with piles of snow taking up many parking spaces. After finding my zen in a yoga class I was dreamily strolling toward the parking lot. Scanning the area to find my car, I noticed a young man inspecting a minivan’s bumper, gently wiping off salt and dirt, clearly looking for damage. It wasn’t until he walked away that I realized it was my car he was checking. I tried to run after him but he had crossed a busy street and was gone. It was a frigid day and I didn’t have the energy to leap through traffic to track him down. Instead, I returned to the scene of the crime.

Flustered and irritated, I checked the bumper, which was mildly scuffed. Was it new or old, I wondered? Not being one to take much notice of those things, I had no idea. I grumpily got into my car, resigned to the fact that people are horrible, no one takes responsibility for their actions anymore, and I was just another victim of a faceless crime. Then, I noticed a piece of white paper, fluttering in the wind, stuck underneath the windshield wiper on the passenger side of the car. It couldn’t possibly be what I hoped it was, could it? I hopped out, grabbed the note and read it. The person had left his name and cell phone number and said he didn’t think there was damage to my car but to call him if I needed to have it fixed. I held it up like a trophy, feeling elated that there was goodness in the world. A woman was walking near me, heading to a store and I gleefully told her what happened. “You made my day,” she said.

Is it sad that I sometimes expect so little of humanity that a little scuff would bring me such joy? I told my husband about it and neither of us could get excited about a little scrape on a four-year-old car. It definitely wasn’t anything worth my time and trouble. I was determined to send the guy a text and thank him for his goodness, a little cosmic positive reinforcement for his mensch-like behavior. The weeks flew by and I forgot about it until I discovered the note in one of my household piles. Knowing that it is never too late to act, I sent him a text:

Me: Hello, You left a note on my car last month in a shopping center after scraping my bumper. I’ve been meaning to write you to tell you how happy it made me to know there are still good, honest people in the world. I saw you as you were leaving but couldn’t catch you. I was so frustrated and then I found your note. You really made my day. And no worries about the bumper -it’s not a big deal! Let’s both keep paying the kindness forward!

The Reply: Wow! You made my day too! That was my 17 year old son and he left my cell because I am easier to reach. Thank you for your kindness and understanding and I just shared your note with my son who is driving and really appreciated it. He was backing out slowly and a waiting driver was being impatient and honking and he got flustered. So your kindness was a great antidote! We will indeed pay it forward. Have a great day from both of us!

I wasn’t expecting a mom to mom interaction, but it made the whole thing even sweeter. Clearly, I told her, she was an outstanding mother with award winning parenting skills as she was raising a fine young man. I have an 18-year-old son. Would he have left a note? Would I? I never asked for her name, nor she mine, so it remained a lovely, anonymous interlude that I suspect we will both remember fondly.

I try to take the peace and tranquility that I learn on the yoga mat out into the world. Take a deep breath, clear out the clutter in my mind, be kind to myself and to others. I love that it’s called the “practice” of yoga. Human beings are always practicing too, trying to get things right. This young man gave me a gift. You never know what the universe will send your way.

 

 

Open Up

openness

I recently met up with some old friends I haven’t seen for years. It was so fun to reconnect with them. Driving home I flipped through my mental Rolodex, thinking of all the people I’ve befriended in my life (if we don’t have actual Rolodexes anymore, can I still keep my mental Rolodex?) Then my husband was channel surfing the other night and came across a Seinfeld episode. I was drawn to the TV – it felt like running into old friends who were a huge part of my life. So much so that a real (not TV) friend who I worked with during the Seinfeld years recently sent me an obituary of an actor who played a character on Seinfeld (Mr. Kruger,) as if he was our mutual friend. I guess, like all the Seinfeld characters, he sort of was.

I cherish my friends, each for their special qualities and the joy they bring to my life. While I’m not necessarily actively recruiting new friends, I am open to whomever might cross my path. Sometimes you meet someone and there’s a spark – a connection, if you will. Wow, you think, I would like to get to know this person better. Many people say they don’t have time to see the people they already know; how could they possibly interview and “date” new people? When I meet someone new and there’s a spark, I am magically able to make room in my life. It’s funny how that happens.

In my middle-age I am an odd juxtaposition of intolerance and openness. I can be cranky and set in my ways, yet I can also be excited about life and open to new experiences and people. I think of myself as a social misanthrope, although my truly misanthropic friends scoff at this description of friendly old me.

I’ve turned to yoga – something I never thought I would do. I’ve been practicing on and off for three years at the same studio. One of my favorite instructors talks about the line between effort and ease in yoga practice – I’m all about trying to achieve that balance, in yoga and in life. I like the idea of stretching myself to experience new things, becoming a stronger person in a way that feels manageable yet sometimes a little uncomfortable to me.

Sure, many people are most comfortable with people who are like them- same neighborhood, same schools, kids the same age, etc. That’s where many of my closest friends come from too. But I also like hanging out with different people.

For instance, if you had told me ten years ago that I would be hanging out with many religious Jewish women, I would have said you’re crazy. Lo and behold, here I am – immersed in organizations that provide wonderful services for my son with special needs and a group that takes women to Israel as a means to inspire and empower women with Jewish values. We may dress differently, have different lifestyles and varying levels of religious observance but our desire to achieve the same goals brings us together and makes for some wonderful relationships.

I can be a closed book or open to new chapters. For me, it’s the characters that make the book really interesting. Thanks to all the characters in my story.