The Joy of Small Gestures

Many years ago when we were in our late 20’s, my husband and I were lined up in a local Dairy Queen one evening to pick up a treat on our way home.  It was not too busy, and we had just put in our order when we both noticed something on the ground at about the same time–a $20 bill.  We picked it up, realizing that a woman had just left with her order and it must have been hers.  We hesitated for a brief moment, and then finally went outside to try and catch her.

That hesitation was just long enough that by the time we got out there, she had already driven away.  But the guilt at not having tried harder to catch her stuck with us.  We felt so bad that the next day we took the $20 and donated it to the Salvation Army, because we couldn’t bear to keep it.  It wasn’t a perfect solution, but we felt better at not having spent it on ourselves.  It taught me a lesson, I guess, because I still remember that incident to this day.  I wouldn’t hesitate for a second now under the same circumstances to get the money back to its rightful owner if I could.

But it made no sense to me the other week when I looked outside my living room window to see that someone had come along and destroyed every last lovely red tulip in our front garden.  I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to go outside to confirm it to myself.  I nearly cried!  Just careless and self-serving nastiness, and for no good reason.  The tulips had been particularly bright and beautiful this year…I guess the temptation was too much for someone.

Later on that Sunday morning, I decided to post my experience to Facebook and received many responses from my friends which gave me some comfort.  But two responses were unexpected.  A couple of days later, my oldest daughter saw some tulips in a grocery store so she bought them and brought them home to give to me.  And several days after that, a friend gave me a chocolate tulip because when she saw it, she said she thought of the tulips I lost.  It’s amazing how little gestures like that can just make your heart swell with joy!

Another recent incident also restored my faith in human beings;  this past week a package arrived in the mail for my daughter, the one who had given me the tulips.  It had no return address on it, which was curious.  When my daughter opened it, she found her change purse, which she had somehow managed to lose a few days earlier.  Someone actually took the time and spent the money to mail it back to her, with not a cent missing.  I could see that my daughter was genuinely touched at the fact that someone would go to the trouble, just for a change purse.  And it seemed to bring everything full circle…she did something nice for me, and someone did something nice for her.  Good karma, perhaps?

Life is full of so many little lessons if we’re paying attention, never mind the big ones.  The loss of tulips and change purses are hardly front page news, but the small gestures they inspired somehow felt huge and life-affirming.  I’m hoping that the person or persons who destroyed the tulips will eventually learn what I did, all those years ago.

That a stupid guilty pleasure doesn’t feel nearly as wonderful as a good deed.


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