We may never know how far the ripples might extend past our moments of kindness or the lasting impact they could make on the lives of the ones touched by them.
Isn't that exciting? - Anita Stout
I was living alone with my young son, only 18 months old, separated again for the umpteenth time from my husband and struggling. When I say struggling, I mean eating chicken pot pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they were on sale 7 for a dollar and it was the best way to stretch my limited budget.
I lived and worked at an apartment complex that provided free rent as a perk of employment and drove an old LTD that was held together primarily by rust. In the car's defense, I only paid $125 for it so I always got more than I paid for when it started. It did start from time to time when it wanted to and if I pleaded and promised to fill it up with my next paycheck. On the days it didn't believe me, (with good cause) I'd call my friend Rich who worked at the complex with me. These days became more and more regular and Rich, bless his heart, was happy to pick me up and deliver my son to daycare before driving me to work.
Rich was an eternal optimist with a wicked sense of humor which was a Godsend to me at the time. Laughter is cheap but worth it's weight in gold. Rich was raised by a single mother himself and as a result I think it made him sensitive to my plight. His mother was a nurse who had managed to single handedly raise 8 children on her own of which Rich was the only son.
Along with the free apartment, I was paid $4.00 an hour. What didn't go to daycare, which wasn't much, also needed to cover utilities and food and the occasional gas I'd promised the car. To say that things were lean would be to laugh. Things were dire. The only thing working to my advantage was that I was still too young to really understand the impact of dire.
It was November, the week before Thanksgiving, and on top of all the other expenses, I'd needed to take my son to the Dr. and pay for a prescription. Mother Hubbard's cupboard would have looked pretty good compared to mine at the time. I was too proud (taught early to be self sufficient) to ask for help so I got by eating can's of green beans and whatever else I could find when the potpies ran out.
One evening at about 7:00 there was a knock at the door. I wasn't expecting anyone so I was surprised when I opened the door to see Rich standing there with his mother, whom I'd never met before. The two of them, with both arms full of grocery bags, asked if they could come in. I was speechless. As they entered the apartment and began unpacking the the bags I was completely overwhelmed. The deep gratitude I felt was tainted only by the shame that I also felt at being in a position to require someone else to put themselves out on my behalf.
Rich's mother must have sensed this as she hugged me knowingly. I imagine, looking back, that perhaps she had been in my situation at one time or another being tasked with the care of so many young ones on her own. Very little was said. I hope I thanked them both graciously enough but I remember how difficult it was to speak and I'd never been that overwhelmed before.
That night changed me. My heart was broken open forever by the overflowing gratitude that wouldn't fit inside it without its bursting. I resolved there and then that I wanted to be like Rich's mother. I wanted to be the one to help someone in need. I wanted to honor her gift to me in every way possible.
That 18 month old son will be turning 40 soon and has 5 siblings as well. The time has flown on wings of lightening but its passage hasn't dulled my gratitude or my resolve to
honor the compassion that showed up at my door unexpectedly on a bleak November evening.
That simple act of kindness set in motion numberless ripples as I've had opportunities to serve others over the years. I have no idea if my own acts of compassion might have influenced someone else to do the same, but how exciting is the prospect of that? What if we each only cast one stone? How far might the ripples reach? Let's find out shall we?