Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Sometimes It Just Takes A Penny

--by keymaker, posted Dec 28, 2010

On the street, outside a restaurant door, my wife and I are chatting with friend about some good news in her life.  Right then, a woman comes up to me and asks, "I'm so sorry to interrupt, but I'm really hungry and I'm wondering if you could spare some money?"

In our city, there are many pan-handlers, so I typically would just share a kind word and move on.  But somehow I feel moved to do something this time.  Perhaps it was because we were just conversing about some good events happening in our friend's life and I had a sublte sense of paying it forward.  I don't know.

"Yeah, sure.  I'll take you to eat dinner today.  Where do you want to go?" I ask the homeless woman. With a surprising smile, she says: "Oh, there a Taqueria just down that street.  I'd love to get a burrito."

So the two of us head out, while my wife and friend continue their conversation.

Along our walk, the homeless woman tries to hit me up for some more money.  Not really inspired by her attitude, I tell her honestly:  "Unfortunately, I'm myself not working right now so I won't be able give you more money but I'm glad that I can get you a burrito today."  After a somewhat awkward pause, I ask her, "Do you know what inspired me to do this act today?"  I get the sense that she is startled at my invitation to reflect like this.  "No.  What?" she replies.  "Well, you know my friend back there -- something nice happened to her recently, after a lot of struggles.  Someone was good to her, and she was happy.  So when you came in, I thought that I should carry that chain of goodness going and do something for someone else.  My act is kind of small thing, compared to my friend's joy, but still, the love continues.  You know what I mean?  We have to keep the chain of love going."  Something in our energy field changes.  It's hard to know what exactly it is, but after a moment of silence, when she mumbles, "Yeah", I could tell that she really understood the spirit of my offering.

The Taqueria is still another half a block away when she spontaneously blurts out: "You know, what I would really like is an ice-cream!  I never get ice-cream.  Would you get me an ice-cream?"  Now, I am thrown off a bit.  Ice-cream?  "Yeah, sure," I say with a smile -- because I love ice-cream too. :)  "Let's walk into this Seven-Eleven.  And you know, it'll be cheaper for you than buying me a burrito.  See you're getting off easy!" she adds.  In a weird sort of a way, I think this homeless woman was actually lookin' out for me and trying to save me some money.

As we walk into the convenient store, she excitedly rolls open the ice-cream cart and selects a cheap ice-cream bar.  "No, no.  Go ahead and get anything you want," I protest.  She finally picks up a Snickers ice-cream sandwich.

On the way out, she decides to get some Cheetos too.  And she insists on paying with some money in her pocket.  Not only am I confused by her insistence, but the guy behind the counter is confused too!

Then, the most amazing thing happens.  Right as she gathers her change and we are about to walk out, she turns back, consciously picks out a coin from her change, and drops a penny in the tip-jar. 

Wow.  Such kind of generosity can really take your breath away.

"You kept the chain of love going," I state the obvious, as we walk out of the Seven-Eleven.  For the first time, I look squarely at her and she smiles.  I see that she has some teeth missing.  "Yes, I did," she affirms while still smiling.  In that moment, we were both living proof that size of a gift doesn't matter -- a huge favor, or a small burrito, or an even smaller ice-cream, or a tiny penny.  If the intention is sincere, the joy is immediate.

We exchange a few more sentences, but there is a sense of comfortable (and joyful) silence between us now.  Words almost get in the way.  She takes off the torn glove in her right hand and holds out her hand, "I'm Lisa.  What's your name?"  I tell her my name, while shaking her hand.  Few moments later, we part ways as I see her biting into the ice-cream.

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Readers Comments

ado wrote: I loved the idea that it is not the size of the gift but the spirit by which the gift is giving. What a beautiful story.
Pranita Bhat wrote: I'm inspired! Grateful for the share. :)
BlueSkies3 wrote: That is simply lovely.
arundebnath wrote: A single grain of sand many times over makes a beautiful sea beach and a "small" gesture of kindness replicated across the world can make a peaceful and loving planet earth.

Thank you for doing this "small" act of kindness and sharing the story to make us wiser and happier [for keeping the chain of kindness act going].
Michael Baliarsingh wrote: Wah somebody wants to help but at the same time the needy one also helps the person who is willing to get food for her by choosing the cheaper one. Quite inspiring story and this is what we call humanity is. Thank you very much for sharing with me such moral values
joja wrote: This is awesome. :)
Shilpa wrote: Beautiful and left me filled with love and compassion, needless to say teary eyed too :)
brent wrote: Absolutely beautiful! Thank u!
suresh wrote: This is really heartening
oldgirl wrote: I believe you both had a good reason to smile keymaker. If initially she was after money for something other than food she realised you were willing to help her to eat, she helped you by lookng for a cheaper option.

A lovely story and thanks for sharing it.

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