After the blizzard this past winter, parking lots were a mess with piles of snow taking up many parking spaces. After finding my zen in a yoga class, I was dreamily strolling toward the parking lot. Scanning the area to find my car, I noticed a young man inspecting a minivan’s bumper, gently wiping off salt and dirt, clearly looking for damage.
It wasn’t until he walked away that I realized it was my car he was checking. I tried to run after him, but he had crossed a busy street and was gone. It was a frigid day and I didn’t have the energy to leap through traffic to track him down. Instead, I returned to the scene of the crime.
Flustered and irritated, I checked the bumper, which was mildly scuffed. Was it new or old, I wondered? Not being one to take much notice of those things, I had no idea. I grumpily got into my car, resigned to the fact that people are horrible, that no one takes responsibility for their actions anymore, and I was just another victim of a faceless crime.
Then, I noticed a piece of white paper, fluttering in the wind—stuck underneath the windshield wiper on the passenger side of the car. It couldn’t possibly be what I hoped it was, could it? I hopped out, grabbed the note and read it. The person had left his name and cell phone number and said he didn’t think there was damage to my car, but to call him if I needed to have it fixed.
I held it up like a trophy, feeling elated that there was goodness in the world. A woman was walking near me, heading to a store, so I gleefully told her what happened. “You made my day,” she said.
Is it sad that I sometimes expect so little of humanity that a little scuff would bring me such joy? Later that night, I told my husband about it, and neither of us could get excited about a little scrape on a 4-year-old car. It definitely wasn’t anything worth my time and trouble. I was determined to send the guy a text and thank him for his goodness, a little cosmic positive reinforcement for his mensch-like behavior.
The weeks flew by and I forgot about it until I discovered the note in one of my household piles. Knowing that it is never too late to act, I sent him a text:
Me: Hello, You left a note on my car last month in a shopping center after scraping my bumper. I’ve been meaning to write you to tell you how happy it made me to know there are still good, honest people in the world. I saw you as you were leaving but couldn’t catch you. I was so frustrated, and then I found your note. You really made my day. And no worries about the bumper—it’s not a big deal! Let’s both keep paying the kindness forward!
The Reply: Wow! You made my day too! That was my 17-year-old son, and he left my cell because I am easier to reach. Thank you for your kindness and understanding—I just shared your note with my son who is driving and really appreciated it. He was backing out slowly and a waiting driver was being impatient and honking, and he got flustered. So your kindness was a great antidote! We will indeed pay it forward. Have a great day from both of us!
I wasn’t expecting a mom-to-mom interaction, but it made the whole thing even sweeter. Many teens are self-centered and entitled. It was great to see a young person take responsibility, even if he had to confer with his mom first. I admired the mother who suggested her son do the right thing instead of protecting him from the consequences of his actions.
I have a 19-year-old who I think should learn from his mistakes. Sure, I want to rescue him sometimes, kiss the boo-boo and make it better. But I have learned to sit back, not hover, and let him figure things out. Clearly, I told the young man’s mom, she was an outstanding mother with award-winning parenting skills as she was raising a fine young man. Would my son have left a note? Would I? I never asked for her name, nor she mine, so it remained a lovely, anonymous interlude that I suspect we will both remember fondly.
I try to take the peace and tranquility that I learn on the yoga mat out into the world. Take a deep breath, clear out the clutter in my mind, be kinder to myself and others. I love that it’s called the “practice” of yoga. Human beings are always practicing too, trying to get things right. This young man gave me a gift. You never know what the universe will send your way.