“A stranger gave me his car,” said my houseguest Wendee Nicole as she took a sip of her coffee.
My eyes bulged out as I processed what she had just said. We were sitting at my kitchen table in our pajamas talking about when during times in life we feel our daily existence involves an exhausting trudge uphill, how important it is to trust in Source, the Universe, or God (whatever you may call a higher power or collective energy in which you believe). Wendee is a single mom, and a couple years ago had been struggling financially. She had blogged about her daily battle to make ends meet. She wrote how she was worried about what would happen if her car, with its 200,000 miles, conked out. She wouldn’t be able to afford to fix or replace it. All she wanted in life was a wee bit of a break.
That break came when out of the blue she was contacted by a stranger (let’s call him the “Stranger”). The Stranger e-mailed her and asked if he could give her his old Honda Accord. He had just bought a new car and had been searching for the right person to whom he could gift his old one. He found her blog post and was convinced she was that person. After talking with the Stranger, Wendee realized he was serious. This wasn’t a joke: He really wanted to give her his car. She picked up the car a few weeks later. The Stranger had washed, buffed and polished the car, and had even placed a roll of quarters in the quarter dispenser. He wanted nothing in return.
Last spring I had a similar experience. I’d been blogging quite a bit about my new year’s resolution to live life with the spirit of a cowgirl and the importance of constantly challenging myself to live an authentic life that brings me happiness. A woman named Angie Riker, whom I have never met but who graduated from my high school a few years behind me, had read my cowgirl posts. Angie e-mailed me and said she felt compelled to send me a pair of her cowgirl boots. They were custom-made Olathe polo boots, and as luck would have it, Angie and I wear the same boot size. When I took them out of the box, I stroked the exquisite leather while sitting on the floor in wonder that a stranger would give these to me. Like Wendee’s “Stranger,” Angie wanted nothing in return.
A smaller gesture, but one that touches me just as greatly as Wendee’s car and my new boots, happened last June during a road trip in Arkansas. I was standing in line at a gas station convenience mart waiting to buy a Sprite and a banana. An elderly man abruptly cut in line in front of me.
I remember swallowing my annoyance at his perceived rudeness when I heard him say to the cashier, “I’ll buy $10 of gas and her Sprite and banana.” I gushed surprise and gratitude to this man, whose name was Leroy, as I asked him why he did this for me.
“I was married to the love of my life for 48 years. She died last year. I didn’t know how to live without her,” he said. “But then I realized that if I keep doing nice things for people, I feel happy.” He wanted nothing in return.
Like Leroy, I’d venture a guess that two years later the Stranger still feels happy for gifting his Honda to Wendee, and that Angie still feels happy for gifting her boots to me. Wendee of course remains happy that she was given a car. Even though it wasn’t a car, I’m convinced I’m as deeply touched as Wendee that a complete stranger decided he wanted to buy my travel snacks, and another stranger gifted me cowgirl boots.
I know that the times in my life when I’ve given to others, sometimes anonymously and always without wanting anything in return, I’ve been left with a piece of happiness that I’m tempted to argue is greater than the happiness that the receiver experiences. Whatever the case, the lesson in this is the importance in both giving freely and receiving gratefully. Both the giver and receiver are impacted forever.
Read me on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-buckley/