Wednesday, July 14, 2010
My good deed
It was more a wish than a prayer, more an expression of dissatisfaction that I was unable to have more of an impact on humanity.
I thought, gee, I wish I was in position to do more good deeds.
That’s the kind of thinking I do on my daily strolls around the neighborhood.
I’m not talking about saving cats from trees or diving in front of a bullet intended for an unworthy target. I don’t have an urge to don a cape and save the world.
That sounds like a lot of work to a guy so lazy he’d rather earn community scorn by letting the hedge grow to such unsightly lengths that the neighbor will just cut it himself rather than wait for me to do it.
But I thought it would be nice to help some little old lady across the street so she’ll know the world isn’t as scary as the headlines all hint.
Lo and behold, not a half mile into my walk the opportunity to do a true good deed nearly fell in my lap.
It wasn’t a little old lady. It was a big middle-aged one.
My description will sound contrived but I swear it is factual.
She was what Dr. Hannibal Lechter described as “roomy.” That was his euphemism for a woman of large proportions. She had stringy hair, was sweating profusely and, as I was about to discover, she had no front teeth.
It may be unkind, but my first impression was that from behind she resembled a pack mule, an observation based on her appearance and her apparent mission. She was carrying six plastic bags strained full with groceries -- three bags in each hand -- and a surf-board sized raft of generic toilet paper.
She and I were both walking in the same direction on this humid, 85-degree day. I was gaining on her fast. She set down one armload of bags to adjust and catch her breath.
Now, understand, I didn’t specify in my wish that the recipient of my good deed resemble a movie star.
That didn’t enter my thoughts. So if this was a test, I passed with flying colors.
“You look like you could use a hand,” I said.
She smiled, a little embarrassed, that toothless smile scary enough to make an orange jack-o-lantern green with envy.
“Oh, no, I’m fine,” she said.
Nonsense, said I. I’m out for a walk. Please let me assist.
It didn’t take too much convincing for Donna to agree. I told her I was happy to help. With sweat drops rolling down both of our noses, we proceeded.
She had about a mile to go, she said. No, she didn’t own a car. She walked about once every two weeks to the grocery store and lugged it all back to her Main Street home.
She was very pleasant and grateful, but I was struck by how much awkward silence is involved in a mile-long walk with a perfect stranger.
She’d certainly seen enough TV to know that lots of no good trouble can come from walking home with a stranger. And, me, I’ve read enough Penthouse Forum letters to know that interesting things can happen when meeting a stranger.
She may have wondered if I was a psychopath (I’m not, at least, not yet). She may have wondered if I was going to ask for money or sex. I wondered if she was going to offer me sex.
It wasn’t easy work and may have been worth a little sex. The bags were heavy.
“You’re making me carry the heavy ones, aren’t you?” I joked.
If she was nervous about me, she gave no hint of it. She smiled pleasantly almost the whole way. I think she was really grateful I came along when I did.
I was glad, too. I wonder if Donna would have gotten into my car if I’d have pulled over to offer her a ride.
Probably not. I doubt I would.
During one of our block-long silences I started hoping my friends and people from church would drive by and recognize me.
The sight of me walking and carrying the groceries of a strange, large woman armed with enough toilet paper to weather a nuclear winter would have made for a great scandal, one I’d have been happy to encourage.
We did look like a couple, I’m sure. She was smiling because someone had stopped by to ease her burden on a miserable day.
I was smiling because my spontaneous urge to do a good deed had been fulfilled. It gave me a soulful sort of happiness to have by chance been in a position to help someone who really needed it.
I got to her door, set the groceries down, said I was glad to have been able to help and enjoyed meeting her.
She smiled a big, toothless grin and spared us both any additional awkwardness by just saying thanks rather than inviting me in for a topless massage.
I felt so good on the long walk home I decided that tomorrow I’m going start my walk by wishing my activity would include the discovery of a million dollars.
I’ll let you know if that works out as good as this did.