I’m posting this as a separate blog. Some of you might have already seen it as a posted comment, but I give it separate prominence because it’s worth considering what’s underneath this story.
The poster is Libby Pashley. She and her husband Wayne are very dear friends. What prompted Libby to write this post was my stating that if I found €1,000, I would give it randomly to someone in the street, someone I intuited needed the money.
For me, where I find Libby’s story powerful is in the transference of energy – the energy that stems from a random and spontaneous act of generosity. As Libby explains, that energy has been handed on like a torch in a relay.
Of course, the negative aspects of this happen all too frequently too – like the damaging energy associated with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. That energy can repeatedly manifest generation to generation.
But in the story that Libby so beautifully tells, it’s the energy of kindness and generosity that’s handed on. Some people say violence begets violence. I say kindness begets kindness.
I love your idea of arbitrarily giving the money to someone you felt needed it.
I was on the receiving end of a similar bout of generosity once, many years ago, and have never forgotten that random act of kindness, and think often of it all this time later.
When I was a young thing, around 25 years ago now, I was in London doing that thing that many young Australians do, spending 18 months or so back packing my way around the world. I spent a lot of time with London as my base, and I used to love to see as many west end shows as I could afford – which being a backpacker wasn’t many.
One time, a friend and I were waiting in the line at the returns ticket counter in the hopes of scoring a discounted ticket for a performance of the musical Carousel, which was due to begin in the next hour or so.
There were maybe a dozen or so people waiting patiently in the hopes that some last minute tickets would become available, when we were approached by a man in his fifties asking us if we were interested in two tickets to that nights performance.
We immediately assumed that he was wishing to circumvent the trouble of returning the tickets to the box office and was wanting to do a direct, covert deal with us. We replied that, yes, that would be great, as we were not at the front of the queue, and time was ticking away. When we pulled out our wallets to pay for the tickets, he waived the money away, and said no, the tickets were a gift.
Upon seeing our suddenly suspicious glances at each other, he beckoned his wife over to join us, and explained that the friends they had been expecting to join them had at the last minute pulled out of the evening, and now they had these two tickets available and would be pleased if we would take them.
Despite our repeated protestations that we were more than willing to pay for the tickets (bearing in mind that the cost for us would have been several days worth of food), he refused, handed over the tickets, and wished us a happy evening.
Of course being numbered theatre tickets meant we were soon reunited with him and his wife as we were seated right to next to them for the performance. At interval, the four of us exited into the foyer together where he and his wife not only returned from the bar with a glass of wine for each of us, but also with a copy of both the programme and soundtrack album – an unheard of extravagance for us.
Overcome with gratitude, I asked him why he was being so kind to a couple of young girls, complete strangers to him.
He told us that when he was young and traveling around Europe many years before, he had been hitchhiking in the cold and rain, when he had been picked up by a man who turned out to be a retired Navy admiral, who not only offered him a lift to his next destination, but insisted on taking him back to his extravagant home, making him a home cooked dinner, giving him a warm and comfortable bed, before driving him to the station the next morning and giving him the train fare to his next destination.
He had never forgotten this mans kindness and generosity at a time when he really needed it, and had been waiting 25 years to “pay it forward” to someone else. He said that when he saw my friend and I in the line that night, obviously travelers of some sort, he saw the opportunity to pass that kindness on, and make a difference in someone’s life.
Well, as I say, 25 odd years later, I think of that man often, and how his kindness and generosity to a couple of strangers impacted me in such a simple way. I probably think more often of that man than I do of the girl I was traveling with at the time.
I’m awaiting my own opportunity to pay it forward, and I’m hoping my own PGS will guide me when the time is right.
You really never know the impact your actions have on others – in a very real way I owe a debt of gratitude to that retired Navy admiral who was once kind to stranger on the other side of the world, 50 years ago.