It was one of those days when the rain poured down between bouts of glorious sunshine. It was during a moment of sunny respite that I ventured out to do a few errands, umbrella in hand, ready for the next downpour.
I almost made it. As I was about to leave the pharmacy, the sky opened up. Two elderly women, one using a walker, were standing at the pharmacy door lamenting that they forgot to bring an umbrella.
“Take mine,” I said handing it to one of the women. They politely refused, saying they didn’t want to strand me.
“Really, take it. I repeated. I am only going a few blocks away and am not worried about getting a little wet.”
“We’re only going a few blocks away too,” one of the women said. “Why should you get wet when we can do the same?”
I looked at the two of them realizing they weren’t comfortable taking something from me that I needed as much as they did. They were as concerned about me as I was about them.
I thought about how generous the women were being with me. It wasn’t that they were rejecting help or that they were unable to accept kindness, they were being kind in return.
“I can run,” I said smiling, “so it won’t be so bad.”
The woman with the walker looked at her friend and gave her a knowing nod.
“That’s a good point,” she agreed.
They took the umbrella, promising to return it to the pharmacy when the rain stopped. As all this negotiation was happening at the front door, a man, who was exiting, loudly complained that this was not the place to stop and chat. “Excuse me,” he shouted at the women, who shuffled sideways to let him pass.
There was a silent pause and exchanged looks among us as we witnessed this moment of oblivious disregard.
Then like nothing happened – like his intrusion into our moment was a blip to be ignored – it was.
The women left with the umbrella and I ran home, as planned.
That’s the thing about actions of kindness – they can make everyone involved feel good, feel confident and feel right with the world. The man with the raincloud over his head was not allowed to ruin our moment. That would have given his actions too much power. When we are able to focus on the positive, the negative moments that intervene in life can be more easily brushed off and not allowed to impact our mood or feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
The next day the pharmacy called. My umbrella had been returned.