On Monday morning, I rolled down my van window to hand a few dollars to the man standing on the median. He wore an old green coat, dirty pants and scuffed shoes. He was at a busy intersection with long stoplights where many men, women and children often stand, hoping for help. He turned to me and smiled politely, and kind of laughed when he said "Oh gosh, I'm not homeless or looking for money, I was just trying to get across the street because my bus is coming! I'm a painter, so I'm usually kind of a mess." I responded that I was so embarrassed, and told him to take the money anyway to buy a cup of coffee from the crazy lady in the minivan.
He declined my offer, but asked if I always gave money to people who were asking on the streets.
"Always." I said. "Always."
"But how do you know if they really need to the money?" He asked.
"It's not up to me to decide or judge if they need the money, so I just always give anyone what I have. Sometimes, it's a few quarters that I find in my van, sometimes, all I have is a twenty, and sometimes I offer an extra lollipop from the bank and a promise to swing back by when I get some cash. But, I always offer something with a smile and sometimes with a handshake," I replied, now noticing that my light was turning green.
The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a five-dollar bill and tried to hand it to me. He told me to buy myself a cup of coffee or a cookie or something for my daughter, who he noticed smiling at him from the backseat.
"Oh, gosh no, I don't want your money... really, keep it!" I insisted as I pushed it back to him.
The car behind me started honking as our light was now green, but our conversation was not over.
"I insist!" He said as he threw the money past me into the passenger seat. He then turned and bolted across the street to catch his bus, which was now approaching.
A few hours later, I entered the drive-thru at Caribou Coffee and ordered a small, non-fat latte and a brownie.
When I got the window, I was told that the person in front of me had already paid for my items.
"Well, let me give you money for the gentleman in the truck behind me," I told her as she gave me my new total. "How long has this been going on today?" I asked her.
She beamed. A tear ran down her face as she said "Since eight this morning. So, now I guess it's been about six hours that everyone's been paying it forward."
"This is one of those very good days, isn't it?" I said to her... completely oblivious to the news unfolding a half a country away.
"People are good. So good." She said. Then she looked in my van and noticed Astrid in the back and said, "You know, I will make her a special drink too... on the house... just give me a second."
She handed me the drink, which of course had extra whipped cream, and said to Astrid, "You know, there are so many good people in the world. Just know that, OK?"
And I must continue to believe that.
This post originally appeared on Sellabitmum.
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