This post is going to be a little different. Instead of a thought experiment or internal thought like usual, I’m going to be telling a story. A story of something that happened to me ten minutes ago.
I had just gotten back from the gym with a friend (yes, I go to the gym now), finishing some weight lifting and some heated discussion of the atmosphere of eSports and other competitive video games. I suddenly got the urge to go to the grocery store and pick up some deli meat and pork rinds.
As I’m getting out of the car, I hear an “Excuse me!” and, against my better judgment, I turn to look at who said it. Approaching me (rather quickly, might I add), was a middle-aged woman who was saying something about not wanting to beg and having three kids with no food and no more food stamps to use. I was actually so shocked at the fact that I stopped and turned that I didn’t catch every word she said, but before she even finished speaking, I said, “sure. Why don’t you come inside?” and I waved her in with me.
After we got inside, I let her know that she could get anything she wanted, so she started with some fruit. After just a handful of things she came to me and asked for my permission to pick up more things, to which I said, “Absolutely. Get as much as you need. Just meet me up front when you’re done.” And she was off.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if I was being scammed. But I figured, hey, I’ve had a pretty good week. I just got back from a church camp where I felt pretty uplifted. Also, today two of my friends paid for a game that I’ve been wanting, and on top of all THAT, I got a job offer today. So in the back of my mind, I was telling myself to pay it forward. Even if she was scamming me, what’s the harm? I’d lose some money and somebody would have food. There’s not much to lose here.
My second thought was: okay. I’m pretty sure she’s telling the truth about going through a hard time, and I’m more than willing to pay for her groceries. But what do I say to her? Should I tell her to tell her children that God exists and He loves them? Do I tell her to make the groceries last? I thought about this the entire time I was waiting for her at the cashier. But in the end, I couldn’t figure out what to say, and I ended up just not saying anything at all.
She gave me a hug outside and we parted ways. I made sure to take the receipt so she wouldn’t have to worry about how much the food cost. Judging by what she bought, I kinda figured that her fridge was completely empty. All the more reason for me to help her out. She pushed the shopping cart with her as she crossed the parking lot, walking alongside someone who was waiting outside. I saw her slow to a stop with her head down. I waved to them as I passed.
I live in a bubble. For a while, I didn’t think I did. But I literally went from a conversation about playing video games for a living … to being asked to help someone’s children survive. It was so easy for me to point out my friends who live in their respective bubbles, so far away from hardship. But I’m in one myself. Just because I live close to these people doesn’t mean I’m stricken with the same problems. I live in a bubble, and I am so blessed.
But you know what else I realized? There’s no need to bring religion into every conversation or good deed. If I had said something like, “Jesus loves you” after I paid for her groceries, it would have been so forced, and I doubt she would have taken it well. I definitely wouldn’t. Instead, it would have sounded like I was using this opportunity as a cheap way of converting her, and that’s not at all what I was trying to accomplish. At first I regretted keeping my mouth shut, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m glad I did.
I’m so glad to have had this experience. I’m so glad to have been able to pay my blessings forward. I’m so glad to have been able to make this woman’s night, or week, or whatever. I’m just so glad for this evening, and everything that lead up to it. And I wonder what would have happened to her if I didn’t have that parking lot conversation about eSports, or if I wasn’t on this diet, or if any of those things prior to tonight… didn’t happen. Everything just seems to have fallen into place beautifully. For that… I’m glad.
These are the best pork rinds I’ve ever had.