I know them well enough now that when they ask how I'm doing, I tell them. So, I relayed my woeful tale of joblessness and financial distress. We went on to other topics. We shared a meal, talked, laughed... the evening wound it's way through dusk and into a starlit, balmy night. Hours passed.
She and I sat on the porch, sharing a smoke in the dark as she talked on the phone with her sister. He came out and handed me some money. "What's this for?" I aked. He said, "This is not a loan. I don't want you to pay me back. This is to help get you through. I don't expect anything in return. When you're back on your feet, do something good." "Oh, you can bet I will!" I replied with tears in my eyes. "I will pay it forward, no question!" He said nothing, just walked back into the house.
His wife held the phone away from her ear and said, "He won't know what that means, 'pay it forward'... he's never seen the movie." I told her that didn't matter to me, I would do it anyway. She went back to the conversation with her sister for a moment, then held the phone away again and asked, "How much did he give you?" Clearly she wasn't in the loop on his decision, but she didn't seem bothered by it either. I told her how much, again choking up. She shook her head and said, "Thirty plus years together and the man still never ceases to amaze me."
Me neither. These are people, both of them, who unfailingly show a true generosity of spirit. They do it with understated humility. They simply care and they show it - their actions speak. Loudly. These are not wealthy people (not by a long shot), but they share whatever they have to share - and not just with me, but with everyone in their lives.
I can hear you now... "Ohhhh, you're lucky to have such nice neighbors!"... or... "How wonderful for you to have met such good people!" True enough, but, no, that's not my point. Why aren't we all striving to be good neighbors? Why is it so damned difficult to ask how someone's day was and to show some actual concern when the answer comes? Why don't we all show such openness and generosity? Is it so hard to say, "Here... you need this? It's yours..."? These are tough times for so many. Would it be so painful to hand someone a spoon and say, "I can't possibly eat all this... you have to help me out..."?
Yes, I'm lucky. I'm utterly, unequivocally fortunate. I have two of the best neighbors on earth... but the true fortune here comes in the way that they are quietly teaching me how to be a good neighbor. They are showing me what being a willing spirit is all about.
It's not what you give... it's how you give it.
Go forth. Do a kindness.
~How Kind Of You, Sir Paul McCartney