Paying it forward

14 Apr

This afternoon I was going on my usual walk around the city when I was approached by an older gentlemen in front of the library. “Are you from Chicago?” he asked, desperation in his voice. “Yeah…” I replied, thinking his next request would be directions to the Art Institute. Instead he told me he was from the suburbs and was just at a business meeting. He went to get his car from the parking garage and realized he left his wallet at home.

Normally I don’t give money to strangers. Living in the city for several years, I’ve become almost immune to the beggars on the street. Sad, but true. I’ve seen too many take the money and buy liquor or cigarettes with it. But there was something about this guy. The panic in his eyes showed that he didn’t do this for a living. “I just need $17, I’ll mail it back to you with interest, I promise!” he said, then added: “It’s ok if you can’t or don’t want to, I’ll understand.”

I stood there for a minute. This felt different than being stopped by Green Peace or the ASPCA, trying to think of any excuse to walk away. Instead, I thought about the phantom $8 I found yesterday. How I couldn’t help but feel the need to do something good with that money. I saw this as a chance. So I gave the guy $20. Words can’t express the happiness that came over him. I gave him my mailing address (which I guess you’re probably not supposed to do with strangers, but he didn’t seem like a guy who would try to track me down and rob me). He gratefully shook my hand then we were both on our way. I couldn’t help but smile, and even felt a little choked up. I’ve never done something like that. Who knows if the guy will send my money back, or if he even had a car in the garage. All I know is that at the time it felt right. I guess that’s what they call “giving in grace.”


One Response to “Paying it forward”


  1. The importance of being honest « Reneedezvous - December 14, 2010

    […] about finding $8, which is equivalent to £5. I kept it that time, only to give $20 the next day to a guy I thought really needed it and said he was going to pay me back. He never did.) Anyway, I was walked towards the back door, I […]

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