A few years ago, I had a day as surreal as a Stanley Kubrick film. As I dug in my purse for change to pay for my Heath bar, a stranger behind me laid a dollar on the counter, purchased my candy bar, and told me to “Pay it forward”. I turned to him, dumbfound and quipped, “Thanks.” I walked away, savoring the sweet taste of chocolate, and shook my head in disbelief.
Later that afternoon, I drove down Schaumburg road, and made my way into the snow-covered parking lot of a laundry mat. I pulled my laundry baskets out of my trunk as the bitter wind punched my cheeks. Why did my water pipes break this week? Why did my life have to be this hard?
Within minutes the washing machines were jammed with my dirty clothes, but it was my emotions that were burst and soiled. In the next thirty minutes, I watched my clothes being tossed against the glass round window, flopping around without any clear direction, mirroring my haphazard day. Just then a wind gust blew the door open and a lady dressed in red flannel PJs bottoms and a black wool coat, walked in. Within seconds she was crying with despair,
“Thunder and Lightning ran out of gas and are stranded.”
“Who are Thunder and Lightning?”
Between broken sobs she continued,” They are my twin girls.”
“Really? Thunder and Lightning? Where do they go to school?”
“Schaumburg High School. They are Sophomores. They are track stars.”
Lines on my forehead formed like an EKG read-out,” Oh, are they? I have a sophomore girl at Schaumburg, too. Her name is Tarah.”
“You do? Maybe my girls know her. They are on the track team and are wicked fast… but they need help. Do you have any money for gas?” She pleaded, “I am a single mom. Please can you help me?’
Her eyes melted my soul like whip cream on hot chocolate. I reached in my wallet and took out a ten-dollar bill. “I am a single mom, too. This is for your girls.”
She hugged me like a momma who just found her lost child at Disney World,” Thank you. Thank you.”
I watched her walk out of the frosted glass door and disappear into the blizzard. I dialed Tarah on my cell.
“Tarah do you know any girls called Thunder and Lightning at your school?”
“Yeah, mom. They are track stars, why?
“Never mind… I’ll see you in a bit.”
Pressing the end button on my cell phone, I looked up at the ceiling and laughed as I thought of the gentleman who said, “pay it forward.” I felt an unnerving stillness come rush over me like a gentle brook streaming over a rock.
As I left the laundry mat, the snow continued to fall making the roads slick. I stopped at a stoplight right by Schaumburg High School just as a car skidded into me tapping my bumper. As I walked to rear of my Murano, I saw a nervous chubby cheeked face looking down at the dent and then his hazel eyes quickly darted to meet mine. With his corners of his mouth turned down he uttered, “I, I am so sorry,” As he tugged at grey knitted cap, he lowered his head and closed his lips like a trap. Looking up at the rosy cheeks I asked, “Are you hurt? Are you ok?”
In confusion, he replied, “Yes. I am fine.” Looking down at the silver dented bumper and then up at the boy, “Well, it’s only a dent. No one was hurt. Forget about it. Just be careful.”
His hand brushed to push his mocha colored bangs to the side and added,” Are you serious?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Thanks. I just got my license and my dad would kill me.’
I shuffled through the snow-covered street and made my way back into my SUV right before the light turned green. As I sat for a moment, I realized that I was given the gift to” pay it forward.” not once but twice. I released my right foot from the brake pedal and pressed the gas pedal down. As I drove into the intersection, I looked up at the sky and smirked knowing that angels were probably smirking too.