March 31, 2014

Thoughts on a Good Deed

Category: Contemplative — Cranky @

Last night I was driving out of a grocery store parking lot when a lady flagged me down. It was minus 12 celcius. She was slim, middle-aged, and clearly from the Phillipines. She asked in broken English if I could help her, and so I parked my vehicle and walked over to her 1990s Toyota Camry. She had locked her keys and wallet in the car.

She was trying fruitlessly to get a gap to open up between the glass and the car frame, but she had no “step 2”. I could tell immediately that the only option was to call a locksmith. I asked her if there was somebody she could call, and all she said was, “No. My mother is very old.” Those brief words told me quite a bit about her situation. I offered my phone for her to call a locksmith. She was very shy in answering that she didn’t have money for that.

Her body language and demeanour just felt… defeated. Clearly this woman was near the end of her resources. So we sat in my vehicle to warm her up, and I called for the locksmith. She put up her hand and I simply said, “I’ll pay.” She was shocked, but in no position to refuse the offer.¬†We chatted a bit while waiting, and she was trying to figure out something to offer me in return. I just smiled and said, “It’s fine. No need.” She teared up.

When the door had been unlocked she asked me for contact information. I said, “I’d prefer not. But I’ll take a hug instead.” I then paid for the service and departed, catching a waving hand from inside her Camry.

What was most interesting to me about this encounter was how I drew the border around it. I denied the possibility of future contact. It was an act of protection. I’ve seen other people help somebody out once and get locked in a cycle of assistance. By refusing her request I allow the moment of altruism to remain just that – a moment. I’ll never know anything more about her than I do today.

Cranky