Thoughts with Richard Bleil
My friend shared a note that she attributed to me tonight. I didn’t write it, mind you, but she believes that some years ago she wrote it about me. The handwritten note read, “Sometimes people are kind with no expectations of anything in return. Remember to pay it forward.” The last line reads, “Keep the sweater.” The line that is missing from the note should be “but don’t tell him.”
We were lovers for a while, but sadly the time wasn’t right. She was struggling with her relationship with her mother, and it was just starting to get better, but because of our age difference her mom really didn’t like me. It’s fair, I get it, but I am also the man who would have done anything to protect her and keep her safe and happy. Fortunately, the man who followed is no different, and today she is living a charmed life with many children and a happy marriage, but we have remained close friends since.
I remember the sweater. I know she kept it even to this day, but sometimes she complains that it has long since lost my scent. And of course, I let her keep it. She wanted it. And besides, we were lovers. She already had stolen my heart, so she might as well have my sweater.
Perhaps it’s not a surprise that I touched her and left my mark on her life. We were lovers, after all, and yes, she definitely touched my life left her mark. Today she is my source of strength. I frequently turn to her when I feel insecure and inadequate, and she always has encouraging words. It’s important to have a sounding board, and she is a great one to have. I know I can safely discuss anything with her, right down to the deepest, darkest and most dreadful parts of my soul. She’s training to become a psychiatrist (or psychologist; one prescribes drugs, the other does not and I always get them confused). I don’t think she could ever be my therapist because of our friendship, but she is becoming more insightful by the day.
The note today was an important reminder to me to continue to at least try my best to do nice things for others. She loves that sweater, although it meant almost nothing to me. I don’t think it was the sweater, though, but the simple act of simply letting her keep it. I don’t even remember her asking for it, but I’m certain that she did.
Sometimes people need sweaters. I’m reminded of a woman in a grocery store in the same town where my friend lives. She was wearing a medical uniform, so I’m certain that she worked (or works) in the local hospital, but she was looking absolutely exhausted. I happened to have had one me that day a one-hundred-dollar bill. I wasn’t sure who would accept it, and frankly, what I was buying cost just a few dollars. It would have been rude to break it for my few dollars, and I feared that doing so would have cleared out the drawer. So, just as the teller was finishing up her groceries, I shoved mine forward. “She’s with me,” I insisted. Of course, she protested, and said I didn’t have to but of course I didn’t have to. It wouldn’t be a random act of kindness if I did have to. I did kind of underestimate the cost of what she was buying, as for a moment I feared it would be over the hundred dollars, and frankly I didn’t have any more money on me. But it worked out. It was just under a hundred dollars, and after paying, she thanked me profusely and explained that she hadn’t gotten her first paycheck yet and wasn’t sure she could cover it.
People might think I’m rather foolish with my generosity. I’ve been hungry and homeless in my life, so it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong, but I can tell you this. She and her family didn’t have to go hungry, and I felt better having helped out. And yes, she was very attractive, but no, I didn’t ask for her number (as we were wont to do in those days). If I asked her for something in return, even as simple as a phone number, it would have defeated the kindness of the act. And I can guarantee that by doing this simple feat, even without knowing how important it was for her, she turned around and paid it forward. For a time, she was happier, more generous, and kinder than she would have been if she had to scrape together money for her groceries, fearing a check would bounce.
Be nice to people. You never know how large a small gesture can be.