Today is our thirty-eighth anniversary. We lived together before we got married, but neither of us remembers for just how long. So, we’re celebrating thirty-eight years, but it could be forty or more. I’m grateful that we’ve “clicked” for so long.
Day before yesterday, my wife drove to Little Rock to run errands. She stopped for lunch at a little place on the western edge of town. It’s the sort of place that, when they deliver your meal, they drop your check on the table and you pay the cashier when you exit. While she was finishing up her meal, a guy who was sitting a table in front of her but with his back turned to her got up and headed toward the cashier. As he passed her table, he reached down, snatched up her check, and strode toward the cashier. She was surprised and wasn’t quite sure just what happened. She looked to the table where he had been sitting and made eye contact with a fellow who had been sitting at the table with the man. Her face must have expressed her surprise and question about what had just happened. The guy said, barely loud enough for her to hear, “He’s just a really nice guy.”
Janine heard the cashier say to the man with the check, “That’s not your check.”
He responded, “Yeah, but I want to pay for it, too.”
The guy got change and walked back toward the table where he had been sitting. Janine said, “Thank you!” He nodded and may have said “you’re welcome.” He left a tip on the table where he’d been sitting and he and his lunch partner left. Janine left a tip on her table and bought a brownie to go. She was touched by an act of kindness from a complete stranger. So was I.
I’ve daydreamed about picking up someone’s check in a restaurant. Or covering the cost of groceries. Or something like that. But I’ve never done it. I’ve always assumed Janine would not approve. She is very tight with our household dollars. But I think I’ll be able to do something like that now, on rare occasion, with no complaints. The question in my mind now is whether to be completely random about it or to try to discern who, in a given context, such a gift might be of greatest value. That thought, though, makes me question whether I would be making a judgment about a person’s relative “need” based on external appearances. And I suspect that would be the case. But maybe that’s not so bad? Maybe being “helpful” allows us to allow our bigotry and bias to show? No, that doesn’t sound right. I feel like something is out of kilter when my thoughts about being randomly helpful are reined in by my concern that my helpfulness might be judgmental. Ach. I still want to do it. Maybe randomness is the way to go?