My sons Kendrick and Keaton dressing up as fictional superheroes for Halloween in 2008.
Many years ago when I was still in college and thin enough that counting carbs wasn’t something I needed to worry about, I was a frequent visitor to McDonald’s. Despite being in my twenties, I always ordered a Happy Meal. To me, it was the perfect amount of food, and I could usually find a child who was delighted to have the toy. Giving those toys away added to my love of the Happy Meal.
One day as I stood in line to buy my lunch, I watched the two people in front of me. It was a lady and a little boy around four, who I assumed was her son. The lady ordered only a small hamburger, and her son cried, “Why can’t I have a Happy Meal?” The lady leaned down and whispered, “I only have money for a hamburger.”
Without thinking, I tapped the woman on the shoulder and held out the $5 bill that was in my hand, “Ma’am, you dropped this.”
She looked at me confused and shook her head. The man in line behind me spoke up, “Yes, I saw it fall from your pocket.” Finally the woman understood and nodded to us gratefully. She bought her son a Happy Meal, and a little while later I gave him the toy from my own meal.
It was a small gesture of kindness on my part, but it made me feel good to help someone else. Many more times, though, I have been on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness.
One day long before cell phones, I was driving home from college when suddenly one of my tires went flat. I pulled to the side of the road, grabbed the can of Fix-a-Flat from the trunk, and walked around to check the tire. It had a hole in it the size of my fist—the Fix-a-Flat didn’t stand a chance. Although I am quite familiar with the mechanics of changing a tire, I’ve never had the strength to get the lug nuts off. I had no choice but to start walking. Less than five minutes later, a police officer pulled up behind me. I explained that my car had a flat and I was walking to the next exit to call home. Instead, he took me back to my car and changed the tire for me. When I got home, my mother asked if I had gotten the officer’s name so that I could send him a thank you note. I told her no. That never even occurred to me. She shook her head and replied, “I thought I taught you better than that.”
Well, yes, she had. Unfortunately, in a moment of crisis, it’s easy to focus on your own trouble and fail to really notice the people who bring you through it. When my first child was born, I was in labor FOREVER. Sixteen hours. My husband was antsy in the hospital, and so I sent him home to take care of our dog. He took longer than I expected, and I was getting more and more agitated. A nurse came by to check on me and ended up sitting with me all night. She was young and patient and soothing. She talked to me and gave me ice chips and made me laugh despite my discomfort. Eventually, it was time for Kendrick to make his appearance, and the nurse slipped out of my room. To this day I do not know her name, but I will never forget her kindness.
Several years later, I had two sons and continued to work full-time. Those were hectic days, and I often felt pulled in multiple directions. One day I was the last parent to pick up my kids from the YMCA summer camp and, feeling guilty, agreed to stop at a convenience store so the boys could get the kind of drinks I normally didn’t let them have. At the store, I helped them pick out their sodas and opened them as we walked to the counter. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. It was probably in the car, but I wasn’t sure. I looked at the teenager behind the counter and apologized profusely. I told him I would check my car, but he said not to worry about it. He pulled out his own debit card and paid for the drinks. Thankfully, my wallet was in the car, and I was able to quickly repay him. Of course, he couldn’t know that at the time—he only saw my distress. I hope he understood how much his generosity meant to a tired and harried mom.
A few years after I moved to Nashville, I had gone home to Mississippi for the weekend. As I was getting in my car to leave, my mom tried to give me gas money. I politely refused, but she insisted. Anxious to get on the road, I quit arguing, took what I thought was a $20 bill, and shoved it in my pocket. Several hours later, I stopped for gas and went inside to pay. I handed the young lady my mom’s money and waited for my $2 in change. Instead, she gave me $82. I told her she had miscounted because I had only given her a 20. “No,” she said. She held up the $100 bill that I had handed her. I was shocked and told her that my mom had given it to me, and I wouldn’t have taken it if I had realized how much it was. Still thinking I shouldn’t have taken the money from my mom, I simply thanked the cashier and left. It was only when I was back on the road that I realized I should have tipped her. The young woman could have easily kept the money after I told her she had made a mistake, but she didn’t.
These are only a few examples of people who have gone out of their way for me. Sometimes in today’s world it is easy to become jaded and mistrustful. We need to remind ourselves that the world is full of everyday heroes—people who are just trying to be the best person they can be and trying to help others along the way. That’s the kind of person I want to be. Sometimes I fail, but I’ll keep trying.
In a future blog, I would love to share stories from others. If you have an everyday hero story you want to tell, please email me the details at email@example.com. Let me know if I can use your first name or if you prefer anonymity. I might email you back if I have a question, but I won’t spam you. Nobody has time for that.