Every now and again, I try to do a kind deed. Whether it be buying coffee for the person behind me at Dunkin Donuts, or doing a little surprise for a stranger. Usually I do it when I am having a horrible day, not because because I feel I will get repaid in any sort of way, but because the thought of making someone smile a little brings a little spark to an otherwise crapfest of a day. Usually I do things where I won’t see the person’s reaction, and I’d like to think it’s a happy one. I feel like when the world seems like it’s in chaos, a little kindness feels grounding. Mr Roger’s said his mom told him to “look for the helpers”. I’d like to be a helper. My husband is a helper. He sometimes gives money to panhandlers and when I have asked him why he gives knowing they are often scammers, he gave me an answer that stuck with me. He said it’s your intent when you give a hand, not their intent. He gives freely, with no expectations, with no judgement. He grew up volunteering at a homeless shelter. Giving is in his nature.
Yesterday I dropped the kids off to school, and promptly saw the gas light was on in the car. I headed over to the gas station, only to see that they couldn’t accept cards, so I went to the one across the street (why the put identical businesses across the street is beyond me, but yesterday I was rather thankful for it. I went in my bag to get my card out and a face appeared at my window. I won’t lie, it unnerved me. I sat there, unsure what to do. I cracked the window and the man started telling me his story. Said his car had broke down near the highway and he needed a new serpentine belt. Said his AAA wasn’t paid up, and that he needed $16 dollars to get a new one (he had taken the max atm withdrawal out. but was short. It was a scam. I knew he was bullshitting me. At first I was afraid he wanted a ride and I said I was sorry, but no way could I put a stranger in my car. He laughed and said no way would he expect that. He was just trying to raise $16 dollars. He told me about his job, handed me his passport, which looked dogeared. The name he gave me matched the passport, and the picture matched his face. Even though I knew I was likely being lied to, I gave him the money. He handed me a piece of paper with his email, and he left. I went to put gas in the car, and as I did so, I watched him run across to the other gas station, grab a backpack, and hope on a white bike. I watched him ride off. I wasn’t sure what to think. Clearly, his story was bogus if he had a bike nearby. I felt sad. Not for the fact I had been scammed, because I had surmised it was a scam all along. I felt sad because he had needed to do it. Normal people don’t go around scamming people.
Later than day, I pulled out the paper with the email address. It was a name@gmail type of email, so I looked up the name. My friends nicknamed me Angela Lansbury a few years ago because I could “find” or “locate” people. I found it a relaxing hobby, and was able to find some long lost relatives for friends of mine. In the age of computers, it’s not all that hard to do. I found his facebook profile.
What I saw was a bit shocking. I saw he had been arrested a few times for trespassing and possession. That fell in line with the scam. Then I sawwe grew up in the same town. He was clearly at some point quite affluent, as there were pictures of him on his boat, at a yacht club, and info about his business. I also saw that he was facebook friends with some of my friends. Interestingly, he was friends with my old ex, who wasn’t on my facebook page, but who I saw on his friends list. It was utterly bizarre. Was his story real after all? He appeared to be much more affluent than I was. I messaged one of our mutual friends who had ended up dating my ex for some time after he and I split.
She responded to me this morning. Her story was an interesting one. Apparently this guy had lived with her and my ex for a while. They were really good friends. Then over time he started acting off and got into drugs. He left and struggled with addiction. He would pull himself out of it, and then fall back in. He had cleaned up for a while, gotten married, and then his wife passed. She told me that I had done a kind thing, but that he had likely sunk back into drugs. It seemed odd because recent facebook posts had him seemingly on the ok track.
I’m left saddened. The fact is, I may have met him in my younger years. We clearly hung around the same people. He was obviously doing quite well for himself, and now is left asking a check to check mom of two for money. I feel a bit foolish for giving it. I feel like I may have enabled him, which makes me feel like my good deed fell to a bad one. Mostly, I feel just sad.
I have always told people “you are always just one small decision from a whole new life”. I have told my children this, and I believe it. One small decision can change one’s whole path in life, either for the better, or for the worse. I tell my children this so that they will be mindful of consequences, but also so that they know that no matter how bad life gets, a small decision can set you on a new path to a happier life. In other words, you can always change your life if you aren’t happy. I wonder how some choices ended him up in that gas station parking lot.
Part of me wants to email him and just let him know that I hope he’ll be ok in life. Part of feels like I need to let it go.