Thoughts by Richard Bleil
About a week ago by the time this blog posts, I was at a Renaissance Fair in Nebraska. Wandering around, I found a booth that was selling crystals. Being that I love crystals, of course I stopped. As I walked up, there was a young woman, who struck me a just a little dejected. She was asking, meekly, what she could buy for twenty-five dollars. As the woman working the counter was negotiating with her, I interrupted with a simple question. “If price were not an object,” I asked, “which crystal would you buy?”
She pointed to a rather large one, saying “I like that one, but it doesn’t matter because it’s thirty-five dollars.” I looked at the woman working the booth, saying, “I’ll buy that one.”
The young lady, who struck me as a young teenager, immediately protested. She said she’ll refuse it. The woman working at the booth began telling her that she deserves to be treated, to accept the gift of kindness, and trying to convince her that it’s really okay. The young woman almost walked away. And I’ll be honest, I was a little bit heartbroken when I thought she would leave.
There are issues with an old man like me buying gifts for a young underage woman. All too often, there are inappropriate overtones, and young women are correct to be wary of this possibility and distrustful of men, honestly, like me. This didn’t feel like the case here, and no, I had no nefarious purpose in mind. I think she sensed that. The feeling I was getting from her was distinctly different from one of distrust.
I have no evidence of this. It’s strictly a feeling of mine, but the sense that I did get was that she was too bashful to accept this random act of kindness. It felt like she believed she didn’t deserve to have a nice deed done for her. This was very sad.
And relatively uncommon. Some years ago, eating wings at a bar, I saw a series of bills laid out on near the cash register. It was a busy night, and it was simply their method of organizing the bills. As I was paying, I closed my eyes, put my hand over the bills, and said, “…and I’ll pay…THIS one.” The next week, I recognized the waitress from that event, and I asked if the lucky people were surprised. She rolled her eyes. “Not really,” she said. “Unfortunately, the one you picked was a table of attractive women, and they acted as if it was expected.”
At the fair, this young woman seemed to have the opposite feel. A feeling like she didn’t deserve to be treated to anything nice. That is very sad to me. I feel as if we should be nice to each other. I’m wondering if this is the first time anybody had ever done something like this for her. A little later, my path crossed again with this young lady who said she was happy to see me before I disappeared. She wanted to thank me for what I had done, and we talked a little bit about the random act of kindness. I explained my philosophy, of how things like this spread happiness beyond the recipient. I explained that now she’s in a better mood, and likely to do something kind for somebody else. Then that person is more likely to do something for another person, and so on. Like ripples in a pond, the positive feelings will spread.
Honestly, I’m glad I could do this for this young lady. She seemed as though she needed it, and I hope it did something to improve her feeling of self-worth. If you’ve never done something nice for a stranger, I recommend it. It was just as much fun for me to buy something for her as she eventually seemed to enjoy getting it. I should add that she did insist on giving her twenty-five dollars to me to go towards the crystal, which is a square deal. She pitched in and can feel better about me just paying the difference.
The funny thing is that I gave forty-five dollars to the vendor. Waiting for the change, she took my cash and said, “if you insist, I’ll make sure the difference will be passed along to somebody else.” I chuckled quietly to myself, but couldn’t quite bring myself to correct her, asking for my change. So, who knows? If she was true to her word, which I believe she was, my act of kindness spread even a little bit farther still.