Nov 2, 2013

Random Acts Of Kindness

Well, Halloween has come and gone which means it's officially Christmas time. Well, fine, Thanksgiving season but everyone knows Thanksgiving is really just the pre-Christmas practice feast where you talk about how thankful you are for all those people you have that you'd like to buy presents for... right?

No? Okay, well, in my family it is.
Actually, in my family, Christmas season starts in October.
In my house, Christmas goes through Valentines Day.

But this year, I'm turning more focus on Thanksgiving- mainly because this year I'm hosting my family (some of them at least) for Thanksgiving dinner. We're talking cooking & planning the menu *hopefully with some help- hint, hint Mom!*, setting up, the whole shabang.

And the more I think about Thanksgiving, the more I think of the last Thanksgiving I cooked for myself...when I was living in Florida.

 As a Disney intern, I missed the holidays with my family but in my stubbornness, I was determined to make every holiday special nonetheless. It was the first year I had ever even thought about how to cook a turkey or what to serve for Thanksgiving. My mom and grandma had always taken care of all that in the past. I just woke up, watched the parade, and ate more pie than I ever would have thought humanly possible. But this year, I was determined there would still be turkey, there would be potatoes, stuffing, and the parade- even if it killed me.

You know that scene in the Santa Clause where Tim Allen burns the Christmas dinner? That is what my Thanksgiving reminds me of. Not because anything was burnt- I hold my own in a kitchen- but because my perfect Thanksgiving turned into a bit of a nightmare.

The night before Thanksgiving, I had everything all planned out. I made up my list and I headed off to Wal-Mart (which in Orlando was always a nightmare). As typical in Orlando, there was a homeless man in the parking lot in ratty jeans. His shoes had holes in them, his shirt was dirty. He had an umbrella (thank goodness, it was pouring) but evidently that was about it. He hit me up for money on my way in the door. I said I had no cash without even looking in my wallet and I walked right past him into the store.

In the store, I loaded my cart with everything imaginable. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pie crusts, cranberries- I was having an excellent holiday, gosh darnit! Stuck in Disney World or not. It was going to be exactly like being back home. Except, I didn't know what type of turkey to buy or how to even cook a turkey and the more I shopped, the more I missed home and my family. The more I shopped the more upset I became about missing the holidays. I was homesick and buy the time I got to the checkout, I was really feeling sorry for myself (in fact, I had texted my parents 3 times by then telling them I was quitting and coming home for Thanksgiving). Pity party, party of 1. (In my defense, I had NEVER just completely missed a holiday with my family before!)

So, I get up to pay, I pull out my wallet, and... I grab the debit card. I swipe the debit card and put in the pin number. My card is declined. DECLINED?! But, I know I have money there. I, humiliated, fighting back tears, tell the cashier there must be some mistake, I just got paid even. She swipes the card again but you can see it in her face like "yeah, they all say that". It declines again. I look down and I realize- I grabbed the wrong card.

You see, my boyfriend and I were sharing a bank account. Same account, different card. And this was his card only I didn't know his pin number. Of course, there is a line behind me and I'm flustered. So, you know what I do? The only logical thing to do- I start bawling. Hysterically. After all, nowhere in my perfect Thanksgiving plans did it say "not be able to buy food at Wal-Mart." Frantically, I get out my phone and I dial his number and he doesn't answer. So, I try to plead my case with the cashier.

"It will go through as credit, can I sign for it?
"No," the cashier responds in broken English, "You not Christopher."
"No, I get that. But I'm on the account- do you want to call the bank?"
"No. Get out of line. I print receipt. You get pin number."

It took me 20 minutes to finally get an answer and a pin number and by the time I left I was both humiliated, crying like a crazy woman, and completely devastated. I was so over Thanksgiving. Holidays are stupid anyways, right? Who needed this lousy turkey anyway? I hate turkey! (Not really but that's how I felt at that point)  It's pouring rain, I was having an absolutely awful day, and I really just wanted to go home (really home, not to my apartment) and see my family and cuddle my dog and eat a turkey that someone else cooked because everything tastes better when it's cooked with love! (*imagine hysterically sobbing in between each thought*)

And, the homeless man from earlier started following me to my car.
He handed me his umbrella which I declined at first ("no sir, I don't want to buy your umbrella").
And then he said "I think you need this more than I do." And, I kid you not, he loaded all of my groceries into my car. All of them. In the pouring rain. While I stood dry under his umbrella.

He did it after I said I had no cash.
He did it for no reason other than that I had obviously had a really lousy day.
I couldn't get over it.

Sometimes, I wish I could run into that particular homeless man and tell him how much of an impact he had on my day (and my life) by taking that memory of a really horrible (and really selfish- seriously, holidays aren't about the food) experience and turning it into a lesson on kindness.

Because sometimes, there is nothing in it for you. I had blown him off, written him off, not even checking to see if I had money and he, knowing I probably didn't have any cash on me, went out of his way to help the crazy girl crying outside of Walmart in the pouring rain.

And when I think about Thanksgiving and what I'm thankful for, he always pops into my head. When I'm angry or frustrated, he pops into my mind. When I'm stuck between my stubbornness or being kind to someone who maybe doesn't deserve it- I think of him.

Each time, the memory reminds me that even though I may not seem to have much to gain by helping someone- maybe they have something to gain. Maybe they need that random act of kindness. Maybe they'll learn from it, grow from it, think of it on their darkest days, and then pay it forward- and that makes it worth it every time.
My family and I when they visited me during my Disney internship.