Opinion Columns & Blogs

Pay forward a random act of kindness

Sometimes, just when we need it most, life delivers a drive-by dose of delight. Last week, it happened to me. The incident was so startling that it made me lose track of the book I was listening to on my iPod.

To appreciate the impact of what happened, you should know that on the Saturday night before, a water pipe had burst under the floor of the guest bathroom.

Husband Bill shut off the water valve and immediately called our homeowners insurance company. God bless Cincinnati Insurance. A live person answered. She told us to move into a hotel and reassured Bill that a plumber would arrive early the next day. We spent the next few hours sopping up water in the bathroom and tamping towels down onto the surrounding wood floors.

Repairmen came and went all day Sunday, chipping up tile, taping down mats, installing fans and snaking hoses over half the house.

Meanwhile, we had checked into a local inn, paying an extra fee to bring our recently adopted rescue dog, Dinah, with us.

Unfortunately, the A/C floor unit in our room blasted cold air across the head of the bed. To keep our faces from freezing we erected a wall of pillows on the bed each night. By day two, I felt a cold coming on. Amid the chaos Bill lost his hearing aid. Dinah, still uncertain as to where she actually lived, quivered with anxiety.

On day five, the fans stopped, the mats came up, and the hoses disappeared. The pipe was fixed, the water was on again. Even though the house was still a wreck, we drove home to crash wearily into our own space. On the way, the dog threw up on Bill’s jacket in the backseat.

The flooring company reported that our particular wood had been discontinued. The floors throughout the house would have to be replaced. Dreading the thought of boxing my china, crystal and other breakables before the installers arrived, I decided to get some exercise while listening to “The Red Sparrow.”

That’s when it happened.

As I powered up a narrow street, a white car slowed as it passed me. Figuring the driver needed directions, I glanced at the window. Dark tinting obscured the interior. Just as I passed the stopped car, a male voice boomed, “Wait a minute.”

Good heavens, on top of everything else was I about to be abducted? Poised to run, I looked back and saw an arm extended out the window, holding a long-stemmed red rose toward me.

“What’s this for?” I asked. I was confused, but when does a woman ever refuse a rose?

He made a dismissive gesture. “I just have too many,” he said, rolling up his window and driving on.

I walked for two more miles, carrying a rose and smiling to myself. Other walkers glanced covertly at the blossom. Only a friend, out walking his dogs, had the nerve to comment.

“Nice flower,” he said.

“A stranger gave it to me. It was a random act of kindness,” I chirped.

“Humph,” he muttered.

Who knows what motivated the man to offer me a rose? Perhaps I was projecting a dismal aura of distress, but his unexpected gift provided me something positive to ponder.

We are all in this cauldron of life together, bubbling up and sinking down. A small act of kindness might lift a fellow human from the slough of despond. And it costs so little.

I plan to pay it forward. If I handle it right, my targets will never know the identity of their benefactor.

Carol Megathlin, formerly of Americus, is a Georgia writer who now lives in Savannah; cmega@bellsouth.net.