“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth and have it found out by accident.” ― Charles Lamb
Friday, November 25, 2016
McArdle on the kindness of strangers
"...Four years ago we had a ghostly encounter in the parking lot of a rundown motor inn in Memphis, where I, in a rush to get to a very early morning interview, accidentally backed into that person’s car at low speed. It was still dark in the parking lot, so I heard the crunch before I pulled forward and saw that the bumper was hanging half-off the back of the car.
I was in agony as I stepped out of my own car and began writing a note. For one thing, I was already late, and stopping to leave my information was going to make me really late. For another, because I was on book leave from my day job and running low on funds, I was going to have to submit this indisputably-my-fault incident to my insurance company, and accept the resulting increase in my insurance rates. I spent all day waiting for my phone to ring, and wondering just how badly this was going to wound my family’s already parlous finances.
My phone never rang. And when I returned to the parking lot late that afternoon, I saw what I hadn’t seen in the dark that morning: The car was ancient, and much dented, and the bumper, still hanging half-off, was plastered with well-worn duct tape to cover some of the damage and secure it to the car. I hadn’t damaged it when I’d backed into it at low speed; that bumper had already been semi-detached.
I know almost nothing about the owner of that car except that they had Southern plates, and a military uniform in the back, and that they were staying at that dodgy motel, which means that they, like me, were pinching every penny until Lincoln squealed. They could have been male or female, black or white, a Trump voter or a Clinton volunteer. But I do know one thing: Offered an opportunity to have a stranger fix their car for free, when it looked as if they could really use that help, they crumpled up the blank check I’d written and tossed it in the nearest trashcan.
There is certainly meanness in our country, but there is a lot of goodness, too, even when it comes hard. This Thanksgiving, I’m counting all the blessings my fellow Americans have heaped upon me, and the millions of similar gifts that have been bestowed upon other Americans -- by strangers, without thanks or fanfare or anything except the satisfaction of giving one’s best.
This is America. These are Americans. And I am grateful for every one."