The other day, Shannon and I were on the way to the park. We thought we owed it to the little guy to have a chance to run around out in the open for a while. On the way to the park, we decided to stop at a pet supply store to get a tennis ball for the dog.
Having sat in the parking spot for no more than a minute or two, a middle age woman walked up to the driver side window. I turned down the radio and lowered the window. She started by explaining that her car had been towed by AAA because her transmission broke. She then asked me if I could give her a ride to her “auntie’s” house down the street, or give her a couple of dollars towards cab fare. Everything I had ever learned about strangers from a young age had popped in my head. What's more, we were in what is oft considered a "rough side of town." Was this woman about to rob me? Kill me? Use the “cab fare” to buy crack? My parents and the news media would have me believe that there was a greater chance of a crime to be committed than an honest person needing a helping hand.
I decided to cast away my white-flight suburbia fears and lend a favor to someone in need.
Her “auntie’s” house turned out to be only a mile or so from the park to which we were headed, but it would have been a long walk from the shopping center. It was located in a neighborhood that most of my ilk would do anything to avoid. There were run down houses, others that looked like they hadn't been painted since the Nixon administration, and what any suburbanite would depict as unfit for the middle class.
I thought about my decision to help this woman later. Why had I decided to allow a complete stranger into my car, despite everything I had ever been taught? We’re not supposed to help the under classed and under privileged this way. Think about what you know about hitchhikers- haven’t you always been advised against giving them a ride? I was led to believe they were all murderers who carried various weapons in their bandana-on-a-stick.
Call it cliché, but I think part of my decision to help her out stems from the concept of “paying it forward”. I’m sure that I owed it to the universe to help someone out when they needed it. For those not familiar (or not having seen the movie), “paying it forward” means when someone does a favor for you, big or small, you should not focus on “paying them back”, but instead “pay it forward” to someone else needing a favor. It works kind of like Karma, I think.
On a total side note, did you know Bon Jovi was a character in that movie? Weird.
(Update: While doing some Haley Joel Osment "Where are they now?" research, I came across this little tidbit: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/mugshots/osmentmug1.html
I guess he's old enough to know how to take two and pass...)