A “small” thing

I’ve read about this, but it never happened to me before.

Late yesterday afternoon I was driving home from the bay area. I’d been up at 6:30 to attend a second day of Dharma teachings. The weather was fine, traffic was moving, I was listening to a decent audio book, but a wave of fatigue overtook me, and all I could think of was stopping for a stretch and caffeine at a Starbucks up the road.

I pulled up behind a small truck and half a dozen cars at the Benicia Bridge tollbooth. The truck seemed to take forever getting through, as if there was an argument about the toll. With some mixture of fatigue and (hopefully) the wisdom I had absorbed from the teachings, I waited patiently, and finally reached the window. I handed a five dollar bill to the cashier.

“No need, sir,” she said. “The lady ahead of you paid your toll.”

As I said, previously, this was something I had only read about before. I was suddenly wide awake, wondering how I could pass the gift on. Carry $10 next time I came to that bridge and pay for the stranger behind me, yes, but what about day to day actions? I don’t cross toll bridges often, and as I felt the effect of that small gesture ripple through me, all I could think of was how to pass it on.

“Don’t bother trying to save the world,” one of the lamas had said. “What right choice is in front of you now?”

What a powerful question, and how worthwhile it is to keep it in mind!

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17 Responses to A “small” thing

  1. calmgrove says:

    Extraordinary. Hard to accept the notion of the kindness of strangers when the world screams ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’

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  2. sciencethriller says:

    This.

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  3. Ah, I like this story. So glad someone did this for you, but, honestly, he or she probably got more out of it than you did. But it does renew our faith in humanity, doesn’t it?

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  4. Mom says:

    And how literal the lesson was for you that day…the world changer was right in front of you! Love it! The moment to do this will come to you. When you feel it, act on it.

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    • I remember in HS, going on a Thomas Hardy jag, influenced both by an advanced lit class I was in, and several good movies illustrating his tales – Tess and Far From the Madding Crowd. I think of him as the novelist whose inciting incidents are the tiniest things – nothing more than a snatch of conversation heard at the crossroads. Such “insignificant” moments led to disaster in his books, but I also imagine them leading to far more positive outcomes. For starters, I’ve been leaving very generous tips when eating out…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Adam says:

    I’m a firm believer that it’s the little things in life that can really make your day. I’ve never had that happen to me (and like you, I don’t use many toll roads), but it shows how easily you can make someone’s day.

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  6. So beautiful! I read a lot of HeartMath (http://www.heartmath.org/faqs/heartmath-system/heartmath-system-faqs.html) stuff and they often discuss how invisible acts of kindness (among other practices of gratitude and compassion, balanced with self-care) can even offer measurable changes to one’s hormone’s levels. Actions from the heart truly change our reality.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

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  7. One of the greatest gifts my step father ever gave me was the notion of offering random acts of kindness without expecting payment. We traveled a lot when I was young, being a mechanic, my step father always stopped to help someone broken down along side of the road. He never took offered payment for his help, saying it would come back around. Sure enough it always did. Years ago my husband and I were on a motorcycle trip to the coast. On a Sunday afternoon the clutch cable broke on our BMW. Within minutes an older man on a motorcycle stops and offers to help. With the clutch cable tied, he took us to his house, made a couple of phone calls and he located a clutch cable – at a guy’s who owns a BMW, just up the road. Just up the road was 20 minutes on the freeway to Santa Cruz. Before long we were on our way. I never forgot that act of kindness and years later going up 50 to Placerville, I spotted a motorcycle along side the freeway with a flat tire. I couldn’t drive by. Yeah, I took him back to Sacramento for a new tire then back to his motorcycle. What was a few hours out of my day?
    I still live by that rule of life. Offer acts of kindness when you can. When offered payment, ask only that an act of kindness be repaid to someone in need.

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  8. The ‘pay it forward’ idea is beautiful and rewarding as well. It doesn’t always have to be anything major – sometimes the little deeds make the biggest difference to someone.

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  9. That has never happened to me before in the Bay Area but maybe I haven’t earned it.

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  10. Extraordinary … Teaching the lesson that these acts could and should be extra ordinary. What a world that would be. Thank you for this post. I will look forward to more!!

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