I’ve just read a Yahoo news story about an anonymous women paying off stranger’s layaway accounts at K-Mart in Joplin, Missouri. It made me burst into tears. I’m a huge, blubbering mess right now. I know, I can’t believe it either. Dammit, this is really going to ruin my image. Just when my faith in humanity nearly flat-lines; those bastards at Yahoo resuscitate me. She did not ask for recognition, the only thing she asked was that the recipients honor the life of her recently departed husband. “Remember Ben,” was the only request.
This article got me thinking, if I actually had the resources…would I do the same? Two years ago, about this time of year, if you asked me this question, I probably would have given you a not very convincing “sure”. I had the resources and I can tell you that I did not use them to help anyone else. It’s not because I’m selfish, I just didn’t realize what I had. Age and experience has made my exterior harder, but it’s made my insides a creamy, nougaty center. I feel now, probably too much, for others. I can’t watch a news blip about a sick child or a family in need without getting emotional.
The holidays seem to bring out the best and worst in people. The news is peppered with feel good stories about folks doing the right thing. Those people need to be commended. Also, there are stories about soulless fucks stealing from people in need. Those people need to be punched in the face and set on fire. I don’t understand the thought process of a thief. I walk into places all the time and think “wow, it’d be really nice to have things like that,” but I never put these things in my pockets and walk away with them. What’s wrong with people? There’s a special place in hell for people that take from children. If they need gifts so bad, they should’ve contacted the organization they stole from to get on the list of people in need. This could save them from eternal damnation, it’s so crazy…it just might work.
I was recently getting my taco fix at a local Mexican restaurant. Taco Tuesday is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. As I was at the hot sauce bar, my attention was brought to a table with three people seated at it. Two men and a woman were stuffing their faces with half-priced tortilla goodness. They were young-ish, I could tell because they were all dressed up in clothing that makes them look stupid and sitting in a cheap taco place. They were talking about me, I’m not sure why, I didn’t do anything to them. My presence was irritating to the women at the table; I know this because she was saying rather loudly, “HER? What’s so great about her?” She went on to pick apart my appearance. It’s not a huge place, there weren’t many people in there and everyone could hear what she was saying. She pointed out the fact that my hair needed to be done and I wasn’t wearing any make-up. I couldn’t argue with her, I was in need of a root touch-up and…I wasn’t wearing any war paint. I was also not going to have my picture taken with the Mayor of Tacoburg, and am past the point where I care what people may think about my appearance. “She’s looks like a dirty hippie,” the young woman said angrily. In my defense, I don’t look like a dirty hippie. I look like a clean hippie.
It went on for a while; I learned all kinds of things about my appearance that pointed to the fact that I was not as great as her…I need a pedicure, a tan and an eyebrow wax. I wasn’t offended; she wasn’t saying anything I don’t already know. “Whatever, Michelle. I just said she was pretty,” one of the young men said. I thought about walking over to them, patting the young man on the head and thanking him for the compliment. Then helping her with the list of things that could use improvement. She missed a couple of things, but I decided that she was just young and insecure. Reminding her that she wasn’t in a soundproof box and not a supermodel, herself, would probably really ruin the night of the young men, if I spoke up. I wasn’t in the mood to fight; it’s Christmas. I didn’t want to wind up in a news story. I could just see the headlines now, “Dirty hippie rearranges face of taco eating moron.”
The young woman was determined to point out what it was about me that she found unattractive, so much so, that when they left the establishment she forgot her purse. It was hanging there on the back of the chair she was using when my order was ready; I noticed it on my way out of the door. The threesome was long gone. I couldn’t track them down. I’ve had my purse stolen before; I know how horrible it feels. Even though she’s spent the last 15 minutes trashing me, I couldn’t help but imagine the panic that was going to set in as soon as she realized she was without her bag. I put my sack o’tacos down and thought for a minute. I don’t steal, even when no one is looking…it’s bad for my karma. Should I open the purse and try to locate her address or should I leave it there and wait for her to realize she’d left it? What if someone came in after me and stole it? I grabbed a napkin and wrote a note. It said “Merry Christmas. The old lady that needs the highlights, pedicure, tan and bath didn’t think she should use your credit cards to achieve your standards of physical perfection, even though she could have. You’re welcome.” I dropped it in the purse and gave it to the girl standing behind the counter. “The bitch in the red pants left this,” I said, as I handed over the bag. The employee, who was standing there the whole time listening to her dissertation about how much I suck, was genuinely surprised by my actions. “I’m a dirty hippie, not a thief,” I laughed as I walked out the door.
I’m not expecting a medal for my good deed. For all I know the employees at the food place pillaged the contents of her bag before she retrieved it. That’s on their conscious, not mine. The people in Missouri may forget all about Ben and the joy his wife provided on Christmas morning, I won’t. If I ever am in the position to honor the memory of Ben and any other person that gave without expecting anything in return, I will. I will also remember the young woman and her unfounded fury. If we ever meet again, after the holidays are over, I cannot promise that I won’t use her as a piñata. I don’t think Ben would hold it against me.