Monday, December 26, 2011

Sometimes People are Cool

And sometimes, they’re really not.

Last week, a friend of mine unknowingly dropped her phone in a parking lot. Upon realizing what must’ve happened, she tried calling the phone, but it went straight to voicemail, so she assumed it died or had broken somewhere in the fall. But when she called her husband to tell him what happened, he said that he had called her earlier and someone picked up. When he asked who was speaking, they hung up. Being that she had retraced her steps through the parking lot and the store, this likely means that someone found the phone after she dropped it, and kept it for themselves. That’s a pretty sucky thing to have happen at any time, but especially at Christmastime. It’s an unfortunate reminder that not everyone in this great, big world of ours is, shall we say, honest or kind. But that’s not the kind of post I’d like to write about today.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to tell you some stories that have happy endings.

The first tale is about a man named Albert. I had served Albert only a few times but I remembered him because he always drank Stella, ordered a pound of wings with extra celery and used a double Airmiles coupon. Plus, he was a really sweet old man; just someone that was polite and always struck up a harmless, friendly conversation, which, when you work in a sports bar, is not always what you get when serving an older man who dines alone. I hadn’t seen him in quite a few months, so Albert was surprised to come in one day to find that I remembered him and his order, and that I was six or seven months pregnant. So we chatted for awhile; turns out his daughter was also pregnant at the time. And after he paid his bill, which included a gratuity, he handed me a $20 bill. I assumed he just needed me to break some change for him, so I started to do so, but he stopped me and told me to use that $20 to start my baby’s college fund. I cried. Not an ugly cry, but a shocked, misty-eyed, could-not-believe-this-actually-happens little moment. Can you imagine? This almost stranger, someone whom I barely knew anything about – just his preference in beer and wings, was selflessly handing me money to put towards my unborn baby’s future. I tried to refuse the money, and when that didn’t work, I tried to be as gracious as I could. How could I tell this man how much his simple gesture meant to me? I didn’t have the words then, and I don’t have them now either. I just know that what he did was the kindest, most pure thing anyone has ever done for me. I promised him that my daughter would know where her first twenty dollars came from, and when she’s old enough to understand, we will go to the bank together to deposit the money that Albert gave to her, the money I’ve kept in a special place since that day, and she’ll know all about the man who likes to drink Stella.

The next story also takes place during my stint as a pregnant waitress. This one involves Steve, one quarter of a group of regulars that I had been serving for years. One day while talking about my pregnancy, Steve made a comment, something to the effect of him offering me the crib his youngest son had just vacated. I don’t really remember what was said but I know that even though I agreed, I brushed the exchange off and didn’t take it seriously because well, people don’t just give other people cribs, let alone to your friendly, neighbourhood bartender, no matter how good she makes your mild Caesars. But then a few weeks later, Steve brought it up again, asking when would be a good time to bring the crib by. Again, I don’t really remember the conversation, just that I was still unsure if this was actually happening or not, because this kind of stuff doesn’t really happen to people, right? And then one day, Steve showed up with a pretty, white crib in the back of his truck; a crib that made its way into my car, and then my daughter’s nursery. For free. Again, I was shocked and dumbfounded that people this nice do exist and I’m still overwhelmed sometimes when I think about Steve’s gift. If you remember, Dawson and I hadn’t exactly planned to have a baby, so it’s not really a stretch to say that we were... scrambling a bit to get everything in order before our monster princess’s arrival. In giving us the pretty, white crib, Steve not only gave our baby a place to sleep, but he lifted a huge weight off our shoulders and, like Albert, reminded us there is good to be found in this world.

I remember once during college, while paying for groceries at the self-checkout, I used the cash back button to take out $20. Like an idiot, I forgot to take the money with me, even though that automated voice reminds you every time to please take your change and your receipt. FYI, I did manage to take the receipt with me. Anyway, I didn’t realize what happened until I got home, and since I lived a five minute walk from the store, I raced back to see if the money was still there. It wasn’t, of course, and I felt so stupid for having forgotten it in the first place. As I walked home, again, I decided that instead of being mad about the situation, I was going to believe that my money had found its way into the hands of somebody who desperately needed it, somebody who was now able to afford some extra groceries for their family or somebody who was having a string of bad luck, who thought that finding $20 might just be a sign of good things to come. Maybe none of that was true, but I think that believing in something positive, however improbable it may be, is always more powerful than thinking the worst.

So instead of assuming that some punk found my friend's phone and took it in a selfish act, we’ll choose to believe that whoever found it needed an iPhone more than she did. Because that’s what Christmastime is all about -believing in the good, the magic, that kindness exists and that strangers can give each other money or cribs simply out of the goodness of their hearts. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, well then Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, or happy holidays. Or happy whatever. We hope that whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate, that your days are filled with joy and love. And iPhones.


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