It was only a dollar, and who knows if it was really going to buy gas. But the woman outside the post office was sitting and reading, keeping to herself. She seemed to be around my age. Maybe she had a home, maybe she didn’t. But her sign said she needed gas money because her car was her home.
The skeptic in me almost passed her by. The dreamer in me hoped that a stranger handing over a dollar might be the one to inspire a lying party to stop their routine — but I also hoped that a dollar from one woman to another would be put to good use if, in fact, the sign was truth.
If the sign was truth, I pictured her wearing out her welcome after having been parked in one place for too long — and not having the means of finding a new spot. I decided a dollar was little skin off my nose.
If her sign was truth, I wanted her home to be as mobile as possible. Our temperatures haven’t been cold like they have across the majority of the nation these days, but it’s still cold enough for a person to be out in it at night.
If her sign was truth, a dollar wouldn’t get her very far, but it was something.
I’m a sucker for believing people — people I give the time of day to, that is. I’ve believed friends when they told me they wouldn’t repeat something I told them in confidence. When they did, they were no longer a friend. I’ve believed significant others when they said they were monogamous. When they weren’t, they were no longer significant. I’ve believed people important to me, and when that trust is broken, they fall a bit lower on the totem pole. OK, a lot lower.
When it comes to strangers in need — whether it be real need or created need — I know I won’t see 99.999% of them ever again in my life. And while losing or demoting people in my life that I’ve had personal relationships with stings, it haunts me far more to know that I’ve turned away from someone looking for assistance. Why? Most of us have our groups that we belong to. If you break the bond that kept you in that group, that’s big. But a stranger legitimately on his own often has only the kindness of other strangers — and hopefully they’ll pay it forward if and when they’re able to. At least that’s the way I look at it.
Tonight I am thankful for having the ability to give, and for knowing that a mere dollar may be far more valuable than most consider it to be. Tonight, I choose to believe that a dollar isn’t simply gas in paper form, it is also potentially fuel for a stalled life.