Investing in a Stranger

Last week was rough. I felt overwhelmed by the what-ifs in life, underwhelmed by an illness, and basically “whelmed” (under and over) by my husband’s coinciding business trip. I was fried.

At this point, anything would have sent me into a tailspin, and one little thing did push me over the edge. Thankfully, a stranger invested a little of his time into my life, and his kindness put me back on track to sanity. Here’s how investing in a stranger can help you both:

The Week from Hell

Before I go too far into how the stranger helped me, I should lay out why I became a crazed mad-woman, crying on the side of the road…so here it goes.

Basically, I had a problematic week that included bad health, a husband gone on business, and an escaped rhinocerous – I mean, Great Dane. Anything that could go wrong did, and the week ended in an unexpected drive 90 minutes away to pick my husband up at the airport. Now, that wonderful finale to my week was enough to set my heart racing, but add in the problem with my car and I was at complete loss.

The Car Tire Problem

The problem came in the form of a car tire. My tire has had a slow leak for months. No big deal, right? Usually not an issue for me either. But this week, a low tire was just the straw that broke this camel’s back.

You see, I was running right on time to pick my hubby up from the airport when the dang low tire light went off again. Grrrr. ‘Oh well,’ I thought. ‘I’ll fill up the tire.’

So I pulled up to the gas station, filled up my tank, paid, and proceded to the station’s air-fill station. I plugged in my four quarters, hunched over the tire in 100 degree heat and somewhat calmly began to fill ‘er up. The air tank clanked to a stop, and I checked the gauge.

The gauge didn’t move a millimeter. ‘Okay, the tire was really low,’ I reasoned. ‘Let me give it another whirl.’ I plugged in four more quarters, began filling and checked the pressure. Nothing. Not a millimeter once again.

A little frustrated, I tried it with my last set of quarters, and once again the gauge didn’t move. At all. By this time, I was hot, angry and really late, but I was still acting functionally normal. So I walked into the gas station, presented a new attendant with a few dollars and asked for quarters.

She looked at me like I threatened to kick her puppy, and then she boisterously dismissed me. “I don’t have any quarters!” she said loudly, harshly.

I looked at her, absolutely dumbfounded and (stupidly) tried again. “I just bought gas, and I’m trying to air up my tire. I’m putting the money right back into your hands,” I said rather calmly.

She looked at me again, only this time she was really annoyed at my existence. She said, “I. Do. Not. Have. Any. Quarters.” She enunciated every word, as if I were a small child who refused to behave.

That got me. I am normally calm and rational but her rudeness pissed me off (pardon my French). Like a crazed teen, I grabbed my two dollars, screamed “Fine!” and spun on my heels to return to my car. When I got outside, I sniffled back a few tears and wandered around, waiting for a solution to fall from the sky.

The Kindly Gentleman

Thankfully, my solution did not drop from the sky like a Looney Toons’ anvil but it came in the form of a 70-year old angel. This man had witnessed the exchange in the store, and he shuffled over with four quarters in his open palm.

I was so grateful to see him and his four quarters that I began to cry in earnest, and the poor guy listened to my tale about the tire failing to fill. He took pity on me and easily filled it up. Although his creaking bones complained, he didn’t, and he left me with a full tire and a heart full of thanks.

I re-learned something that day: you never know what someone else is going through that could bring them to full tears at the corner of Elm and Central. Maybe they are crazy. But maybe they’re having a bad day, week, month or year. One thing's sure: the kindness of a stranger can be the saving grace they need to put their life back together.

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Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 15:06 Comment #: 1

A great story!

Anonymous's picture

Ashley @ Money Talks wrote:

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 16:45 Comment #: 2

Great story. It made me tear up. It's amazing how easy it can be to totally make someone's day. We all need to keep that in mind.

Anonymous's picture

Little House wrote:

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 18:57 Comment #: 3

That was very kind of the man. I would have been in tears too! Why, oh why, are gas station attendants so mean?!

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MoneyCone wrote:

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 21:54 Comment #: 4

Sorry to hear about your ordeal Christa. What is wrong with people? Hey if the gas station attendant didn't have quarters, she could've just said so without being so rude!

Glad someone offered help.

Did you get back your dog?

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 08/31/2011 - 14:33 Comment #: 5

Thanks Alex! It really opened my eyes to the kindness of strangers again -- I'll have to pay it forward!

Ashley, totally true! Just a few minutes of time and a little effort can really restore a lost person.

Little House, thanks for relating! I felt silly that I broke down over eight quarters, but sometimes it just happens!

MoneyCone, true, she didn't have to be rude, huh? Yes, my rhinoceros-dog returned to me after a little coaxing and a box of rhino treats!

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Link Love: The Plutus Award Edition | Money Talks wrote:

Sat, 09/03/2011 - 10:07 Comment #: 6

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