Because sometimes I’m right.
At times I can be hateful. Like the time we pulled up at a gas station, already running behind on a trip and cranky, to nearly take off the door of a lady who sat in her car with it wide open. As we passed by, I glared down at her and said to Sam, “Seriously, because no one else could ever need to get past her in this lane.”
After we pulled up at the pump, I heard a voice say, “Excuse me?” I didn’t look out because I was busy with Bella in the back and Sam was at the pump. “I’m so sorry, so sorry, um…” her voice trailed off. I saw it was the same woman in the car; filthy dirty and so thin with strangled hair. She nervously walked back to the pump and I heard her mumble, “Courage, courage.”
After a second she came back and said, “I am so sorry, but I have to ask, please, I have no money and I’m out of gas. I know I look homeless but I just work for Merry Maids. I came from a job, I need to get home to my son. Do you have just a few dollars I could borrow?”
I looked at Sam who nodded and said, “I’ll put $5 on your pump when I go inside, ok?” She smiled and thanked him. After he left, she called to me, “You give that husband of yours a big hug for me. How sweet. And that baby, what a gem. Treasure every moment with her, she’s beautiful. I’m so sorry I have to ask for this, how embarrassing.”
Feeling like a real pig at that point, I thanked her and told her everyone has those days, no worries at all.
Once we drove off I told Sam what she had said and how bad I felt for glaring at her and judging her before. I promised myself that next time, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.
About 2 months later, I was in the Target parking lot buckling Bella in her car seat. I thought I saw a flash behind the car, but when I looked out there was no one. Then I heard, “Excuse me?”
I looked up and a woman began talking, “Is that your little girl?”
“Yes…” I answered, trying to figure out if we knew each other.
Suddenly she disappeared behind my car, and I wondered if perhaps she realized she didn’t know me after all?
Then. I heard –
“Beautiful baby, treasure every moment. I’m so sorry, so sorry to bother you, I know I look homeless but I work for Merry Maids and my car is almost out of gas, not enough to get home. I just need a few dollars, I never do this, I’m so embarrassed, but my son is at home alone…”
FLOORED, I stared at her speechless for a moment. It was the same woman from the gas station. Obviously she didn’t remember me, and for a moment I pondered simply playing along. Instead, I turned to face her.
“Actually,” I said with a trace of anger, “I believe my husband helped you out of this same situation a few weeks ago.”
For a split second her eyes got huge, but without skipping a beat (she was amazing) she nodded, “Absolutely, I remember your baby and that sweet husband and how generous he was. That’s why I came right over, because I knew you had a kind heart and would help me out again.”
“I don’t have any money,” I stated flatly, which was the truth. I never carry cash. (Because I spend it immediately.)
“OH, NO!” she gasped, “I just need your address so that I can send you back the money from before. I always pay people back. What is your address?”
What? And keep in mind she had no pen and paper. Nor did I.
“Um, no,” I told her. “I’m good, we don’t want the money back.” I moved around her to get in the car.
“Oh, I need to! I always pay everyone back, I can pay you, I can just send it right to you and thank you so much for helping me before. I’d love to send you back a payment and this one too if you could just spare a few dollars…”
I shook my head, got in the car and drove off. I saw in my rear-view mirror her walk over to another woman getting out of her car. I felt really stupid, and slightly angry at us being conned, until I realized it didn’t matter. That was her life, it wasn’t personal.
It was then I thought – I might be judgmental, a little snobbish, and jump to conclusions too quickly.
But sometimes? I’m right.