Paying It Forward

The following is a true account of recent events. Initials are used instead of names, to respect the privacy of those involved.

S had been living with her service dog in her SUV for 8 months, in an effort to save money and pay off the loans that had allowed her to travel several states away, to spend time with her grandchildren. She used the resources in her Taos area effectively, staying at camp grounds, bathing every few days at the homes of friends, and using a small propane heater, arctic rated sleeping bag, and propane camp stove to manage her meals and sleep. As autumn approached she became concerned to find something more secure against high mountain winter cold.

V a friend and neighbor of this writer, called one morning to offer purchase of a Winnebago in excellent shape for use as a guest home, just in need of motor repair. The price was minimal – but I had no need for the extra sleeping space. I asked if the generous offer might be extended to S and was told “give her my number.” By the time S called V, the offer of the Winnebago had become “haul it away and it’s yours.”

S was overwhelmed. She had recently joined AAA and was able to arrange a tow. She and V met when the tow truck was scheduled, sharing their interest in dogs and dog training. S, who had trained her own service dog, guided V to web sites where she could connect to programs that need volunteers for this type of training. A positive exchange ensued. “I haven’t forgotten when I didn’t have a pot to piss in, and slept on people’s floors” V said by way of background. “We all need a hand up on occasion.”

At the grocery store a few weeks later, S and her dog noticed an older woman, also with a dog, who was struggling to load groceries in her truck. Despite a bad back and lifting limits, S followed her dog to the truck. While the canines made friends, the two women loaded groceries and started to talk. S had been seeking a place where she could safely park the Winnebago long term. She was already occupying it, but the tow had deposited it in a temporary location. The older woman, L – a former army nurse who served in Vietnam – offered a parking site and subsequently offered occupancy of a comfortable home on the same properly. S and L became friends, as well as tenant and landlord. S expressed the feeling that she’d found not one but three fairy godmothers, and felt incredibly blessed.

About a month later, a coworker of mine posted a request for information/resources for D, a homeless person in the Taos area who uses a wheel chair and has a service dog. I called S to ask her if she’d share her knowledge of supports with D. She immediately said she could check with L about possibly letting D use the Winnebago. Before a week had passed, S and L were on their way to meet D, who was living in a camper in an area that becomes impassable in rain or snow. The upshot of the visit was that D’s camper was winterized for her, and she was stocked with groceries and dog food so that she could shelter in place in bad weather, and drive out to town for supplies between winter storms. “I’ve always tried to help others, and pay my own way,” S said when she reported the outcome of her visit to D. “With all the help I’ve received from my three guardian angels (you, V and L) the least I can do is my part to pay it forward.”

Have you noticed that, often, it is the people who have the least who are the most open-hearted and open handed with that least – which somehow seems always to be not just enough but to multiply like the loaves and fishes?

I am so grateful that my work engages me almost daily with this sort of sharing, caring, generosity and warm-heartedness. Peace and joy to all in this reflective season.

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3 Responses to “Paying It Forward”

  1. Ronald Maltais Says:

    A wonderful story, and beautifully written. It reminds me of an experience I had as a teacher a few years ago when I asked for donations to help a talented student attain his own saxophone. 18 donations were offered within a 2 week period, and most of the individuals who contributed had limited resources. None of the well-heeled administrators in my school participated. The boy who received the instrument is now a professional musician.

  2. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    Wonderful. And such an appropriate story for the season. So glad you posted it.

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