By Rebecca Carter
On my way to work at my new job, I realized I was very low on gas. Normally, I would’ve had enough to make it in. But this particular morning I was going to a distant suburb of Detroit for a special training session — probably an hour-and-a-half from my house — and the needle was moving dangerously close to empty. I still had another half hour to go. I wasn’t going to have enough fuel to make it all the way.
At this point I was in unfamiliar territory, in Detroit proper (I’m not from Michigan). Stopping at the next exit, I pulled into the only gas station in sight, and fished in my backpack for my wallet. Panic rose into my chest as I realized I didn’t have my wallet OR my cell phone! I remembered too late: the evening before I had gone to a movie with a friend and had taken my wallet and cell phone from my “work bag” to switch to a more casual purse.
Great. On empty, No wallet. No cell phone. In a city where I knew no one.
Luckily, my checkbook was in my work bag, so I held out hope I could convince the attendant to take my check without identification. The attendant was sympathetic, but said the station didn’t take checks. There were no other gas stations at this exit.
I scrounged around my car and found $1.50 in change – enough for ALMOST half a gallon. Probably not even enough to get me to my destination. But better than nothing.
After giving the attendant my change, I went to the bathroom, cursing my own forgetfulness and the high price of gas. When I came out she informed me someone in the station store overheard me and put $5 toward my purchase. I’d seen a woman at the ATM earlier. Without even knowing me, she’d given $5 toward solving my dilemma. I ran out of the store to thank this mystery person, but she was driving off, with a wave.
This simple act of generosity made a huge difference in my day. And gave me a very favorable impression of Detroiters. I wish there was some way I could convey my gratitude to this individual, who didn’t even wait to receive a thanks. She’ll never know that this was one of my first interactions with people of Detroit, and thus made a very strong first impression as an ambassador of her city.
I figure the best way to give thanks would be to pass on such selfless kindnesses to the people who come into my own radar. To strive to live a “pay it forward” philosophy. To be mindful of how simple acts can make a huge difference to those in need around me.
These were my thoughts that morning, filled with gratitude at the difference her gift made to my day. I was able to travel without further incident to my work obligation — $6.50 worth of precious gasoline in my tank. It was even enough to get me within ten blocks of my house that evening, before running completely out of fuel (another story).