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The Reward For a Simple Act of Kindness

One Friday, a couple of months ago I was tired. I’m actually tired everyday. But this was different. It was the end of a long, long week. I didn’t have to pick my daughter up from school for once and the evening was mine to whatever I wanted. You’d think this means I painted the town red with my boys and toasted to the blessings that have recently been bestowed upon me. Nope. Instead I just took my time going home, stopping first at Whole Foods to restock on healthy stuff and then Home Depot to pick up some flowers to add to the fledgling garden I have on my back deck. As I moseyed to the front doors I remember how heavy my eyelids became under the weight of the setting sun overhead. Then I heard it:

“‘Xcuse me, bruh.”

I groaned and looked up and saw a man considerably taller than I walking toward me with a heavy and labored gait that rivaled my own. He was clean cut but it didn’t matter. I knew but the tone of his voice he wanted money, or so I thought. I’m convinced I have one of those faces that screams, "Ask me for money!" because this late into the game I don’t think Jesus is testing me anymore.

“Can I speak to you for a minute?”

“Hey, man,” I said, cutting him off. “Listen, I don’t have any cash on me.”

His face twisted up with exasperation and slight offense. I braced myself for whatever was coming next. “Man, I don’t want any money,” he said with what appeared to be a great effort. “I was just hoping you might be able to buy me some groceries over at the Kroger across the street.”

He proceeded to share his grocery list and his life story with me. An ex-addict, a transplant to Atlanta, down on his luck, recently fired from his job at the airport due to the actions of others but unwilling to give up unless his money completely ran out. He showed me his bus schedule. Which I begged him not to do. He shared his day’s worth of activity at the Department of Labor. At this point I was convinced his story was real. As real as mine had been for four years until I started my first steady full-time gig last November. Finally, I had to cut him off, explaining I am not, nor have I ever been in any position to judge. My only truth was that I was exhausted and mentally spent. I promised him that after I got what I needed from Home Depot I'd give hime some cash.

Fifteen or so minutes later, I came out of the store and he was waiting exactly where he said he'd be. I handed him a twenty and ten dollar bill. He thanked me profusely and kept insisting he was going to get his life right. According to him he was maybe days away from going back home to wherever he came from out of state and moving in with a cousin. He shared a little more of his struggles, shook my hand, gave me a hug, said, "God bless, you." And asked my name.

"Michael," is what he said to me after I answered him.

Kindness Does Come To Pass

Two weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I was standing in front of restaurant talking to my father-in-law while my wife and daughter sat inside waiting for our names to be called for dinner. I'm prone to do this as I'm fine with being patient but loathe to wait in confined spaces. While we're chatting I saw an employee walking up from around the back of the restaurant. He looked peculiarly familiar. It only took a few moments for me to realize he was the gentleman who approached me at Home Depot! I can't even describe how instantly warm my chest got. I excused myself from my father-in-law and ran up to him. He appeared a bit startled when I approached.

"Looks like you're doing pretty good for yourself." I said with a very wide grin on my face.

He gave me a second look trying to place my face. I reminded him of our meeting in the parking lot and his face lit up as bright as mine.

"I told you, bro. I told you I was going to make it!" he exclaimed. Making it was sweeping inside and outside the restaurant. What he was doing at the restaurant mattered a whole lot less than the fact that he was employed there.

I nodded and told him he made my week. We chatted briefly, long enough for him to make some recommendations on what to eat. He gave me a bear hug and I returned to my father-in-law and let him know what happened. Did I save that man? Of course not. He saved himself and I'm sure he's got more work to do. But who knows how close to the edge he was the evening he and I crossed paths? How close he may have been to throwing in the towel or worse considering he had no food to eat? At least for one night and maybe a few more, the money I gave him helped him get through night to fight another day.

It very well may have been one of my most rewarding experiences all year. I often conduct myself under the premise that you never know what a little act of kindness can do for someone else. I've resigned myself with being fine with never knowing. But this one time I actually had the fortune of seeing a little bit of good come to pass.

If you've experienced the same I'd love it if you shared here in the comments so we can talk about it.

photo credit: lucianvenutian via photopin cc

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