An impulse toward kindness

In October of 2000 I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, raising more than $2,000 in my Auntie Elsie’s memory for breast cancer education, research and treatment.

The event organizer was I’mpossible. On Day Zero all of the walkers had to watch the I’mpossible training video. This struck me as stupid. I had been training since April. Who shows up to trek 60 miles through pouring rain untrained?

It turned out to have nothing to do with walking. It was about attitude.

The rule for the next three days was this: You know that impulse toward kindness that you talk yourself out of? Don’t talk yourself out of it.

The video accused us of having the idea of buying a meal for the homeless guy in the park, or stopping for the car on the side of the freeway to lend a hand. It accused us of waiting one second too long to act, and thinking better of it.

I’m guilty of this.

Just last week I was in the grocery store with a heaping cartful, and the lady in front of me told the cashier it was her 80th birthday.

I immediately was inclined to tell the cashier to put her groceries on my tab. Instead, I kept my head down, made no indication that I had heard, and unloaded pasta, eggs, peanut butter.

My mind was all over this woman’s day. She was alone at the grocery store. She was shopping for ingredients on a day she shouldn’t be worrying about cooking.

I unloaded garlic, yogurt, parmesan and remembered Nana‘s 80th a few years ago. Family flew in. We wrote her a song, which all of her children and grandchildren joined in performing. Friends came. My mom presented her with a scrapbook.

There was a karaoke jockey and a feast. At no point did the day accommodate a lonely trip to Albertsons.

I unloaded cat food and chicken breasts and told myself I would only embarrass her.

Then it was too late. I didn’t even say happy birthday.

That’s why I didn’t deserve yesterday. The karma god is all mixed up.

Yesterday I had to go to a seminar in Claremont after an interview in my office. I made the 45-minute drive on fumes, but noted the gas station between the event and the freeway. I could fill up before I went back.

I parked and reached for my purse. Nothing. I had left it at the office.

At least I had my cell phone. The cartoon battery was flashing red, but I only needed one call.

At a break in the event, I went in front of the building and called Mom.

You may remember she was sick yesterday from the stress of speaking in public. She was in no state to drive an hour each way to give me money. On top of that, she was busy with things, like taking Nana to her Scrabble club.

While she was telling me to call Dad, a woman who had been digging in her car walked over to me and pressed $10 in my hand.

I so didn’t deserve that.



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6 Responses to “An impulse toward kindness”

  1. fred bauman Says:

    Tell me the exact location of that building in Claremont so I can stand there with my cellphone making fake ‘I need help’ calls hoping that same lady will be there.

  2. Jeremy A. Says:

    “…That’s why I didn’t deserve yesterday. The karma god is all mixed up.”

    Compare that previous quote to John Lennon’s quote from ‘Instant Karma’.

    “Instant karmas gonna get you
    Gonna knock you off your feet
    Better recognize your brothers
    Evryone you meet
    Why in the world are we here
    Surely not to live in pain and fear
    Why on earth are you there
    When youre evrywhere
    Come and get your share…”

  3. gunky Says:

    wow. the karma gods are all mixed up.

    do you still shop at the hippy bulk type stores?

  4. Breast cancer « Stories O’ Mine Says:

    […] ago I did a three-day, 60-mile walk to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, and slept […]

  5. Your mama Says:

    First, I’m glad you didn’t pay for the 80 year-old’s groceries. She may have been offended. She may be having a huge party but on another day. She may be having a celebration but needed a few things at the grocery store. Some 80-year-olds are in really good shape – she’s lucky to still be driving (I assume she drove herself to the market). So you shouldn’t feel that you somehow were negligent. It would have been nice to say “happy birthday” but it’s not as if you’re her daughter and forgot to wish her a happy birthday. No need to feel guilty. You’ll get another chance.

    Second, I notice that you said you unloaded cat food and chicken breasts. May I remind you that they are chicken pecs.
    – mama

  6. Breast cancer « Stories O' Mine Says:

    […] ago I did a three-day, 60-mile walk to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, and slept […]

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