Last month I spent a long weekend on the North Shore of Lake Superior. While there, I was reminded of a different trip to that area a dozen years ago. A friend and I were on our annual fall leaf-viewing trek and decided to go further north than we had before, eventually ending up in Nipigon, Canada. The next morning we stopped at the café in this very quaint town to have breakfast. We had a short time to spend sight‑seeing before we needed to head home and we were trying to find out what there was to see in the area. After we were seated, I noticed a gentleman in the next booth who seemed to be a very friendly “local.” Quite uncharacteristically of me, I nodded to him and asked if he knew of places nearby that would interest sightseers.
Before I knew it, he was sitting with us and we were all swapping stories. It turned out that Al and I were very like‑minded and we got into a discussion of “what goes around, comes around.” Al told of a good deed he had done and how he’d been rewarded, without any expectations of that happening. He is a member of the Lions Club and is a King Pin Trader. Evidently some Lions members enjoy trading their club’s pin for other clubs’ pins. Al had done a kind deed for a stranded gentleman who, unbeknownst to Al, was also a Lions Club member and a King Pin Trader. This man, however, was realizing that this hobby had lost its meaning for him but still understood what it meant to others. Upon learning that Al collected pins, he got back in touch with Al and asked him to come to his motel where he proceeded to give Al his entire collection of pins, from all around the world! Now because of Al’s kind deed—which was freely given, without any expectations—his collection of pins increased by hundreds. And this was actually only one of Al’s stories—none of which were told in a bragging manner—that showed he was a very giving person.
When it was time for us to leave, Al, upon learning that amethyst is my birthstone, suggested we stop at one particular (there were many) amethyst mine as we left town. (This we did and that is another wonderful story of how I came by a gorgeous amethyst, mined personally by me and my friend—one I got because I was at that particular mine.) Before we left, we all exchanged addresses—Al through his Lions Club card and me via a copy of the newspaper I was producing at that time. Once I was home, it occurred to me that I could place a classified ad in my newspaper and see if I could find people who would like to trade Al for a Nipigon Lions pin. The result was that now I had a warm feeling from doing a little something for someone else—without any expectations.
Much to my surprise, a couple of weeks later I received a very heavy package from Nipigon, Canada! Sure enough, Al had seen the ad and sent me a thank you of two beautiful, large pieces of amethyst, along with some pins and a sweet letter. I was taken aback by his gifts, and especially by his thoughtfulness. Additionally, I thought it quite interesting that, earlier in our trip, I had spent some time trying to find rocks I could us as bookends on my desk. Remembering my forgotten mission after I’d returned home, I’d mentally kicked myself for not getting more amethyst for this purpose. Then lo and behold, along comes Al with my bookends—much nicer than what I would have bought for myself. Interesting that I had “forgotten” to keep looking as we made our way back home!
If I stop and think about the times I have extended myself beyond my comfort zones—like asking a stranger (Al) for help—I find the results have usually been very joyful and are always growth experiences.
Recently, I was hit with the “crud” that has been going around and landed flat on my back for most of a week. Looking back, I am amazed at the contrast between Friday, when I was home alone, and Saturday, when my husband was home. I spent all of Friday in bed, with my only meals being a yogurt for breakfast and one for lunch—I just felt too awful to fix anything for myself. Saturday, my loving husband made me meals and regularly checked in on me—and his nurturing and nourishing ways helped me to feel better. Additionally, the meals gave my body something to work with while it was trying to heal.
Accepting another’s offer of help is not something that has come easily for me, but each time I do, I find a new and deeper connection with the person making the gesture—and that was the case when I was sick. I think it also allows the giver to give something back, which in turn makes them feel good. So I guess Al is right: “What goes around surely does come around!”
Note: After Al left the café (the day we met) and as we paid the cashier, we learned he had won the Canadian lottery—not once, but twice. Just another example of the theme of this column at work in his life!