Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Would Zangy Do?

Zangy Quiz:

Joe and I were on the way home from the hospital and decided to stop for lunch on the way. At Dundas Square there were all sorts of activities and we wandered in to see. In the end, we got separated. I couldn't see Joe anywhere, after a moments panic, I figured I'd just go over to the restaurant and see if he went there. The door is a tad narrow but I was making my way in just to see if he was at 'our' table. He wasn't. I was backing out when a woman came bustling over. She had been seated in the middle of the restaurant and noticed me entering.

When she got to where I was still backing up she asked if I needed help with the door. She was quick with a smile and very kind in her manner. I let her know that I was doing fine, that I'd lost my friend somewhere but that I really appreciated her offer of assistance. She smiled and nodded and went back into the restaurant. It struck me that she had managed to offer help in such a manner that seemed entirely natural. Like it was perfectly ordinary to get up and squeeze by other diners to help out a stranger. Not only that, she offered, listened, and responded. Cool. How nice is that?

When Joe arrived and we were waiting to place our order, I noticed the waiter bring her and her friend burgers and fries. Suddenly I got the idea to 'zang' them by getting the waiter, who was the same as ours, to let me pay their bill as a random act of thanks. I thought about it a second and then said to Joe, 'Do you think it would be weird to just buy their lunch and say 'thanks'.' He looked at me, thought for a second and said, 'Well, yeah.'

Suddenly I was in a dilemma. I did think it was weird but only weird because people don't often just simply do something spontaneously nice, especially if it costs a buck or two. The effect of giving Tangy Zangy to the guy at the grocery store reaped incredible results. He smiles at us now. It was powerfully reinforcing. But then, I'd asked Joe for advice, shouldn't I follow it? It annoys me when I get asked for advice and then have it entirely ignored. I was caught between wanting to do something nice for that woman and being nice and following Joe's advice.

So, I didn't.

Here's the Quiz:

In that circumstance, do you think it would have been kool or kooky to have bought their burgers. We had a similar meal, it would have been around 20 bucks (22US). I'd like your thoughts. To Zang or Not To Zang, that's the question.

I'm even going to offer a prize. To whomever offers the best rationale for their response, I'm going to send two packages of Tangy Zangy, one for you and one for you to pass along.

So answer away.

So far one vote for: Zang - Dave
One vote for Not Zang - Joe

I am vastly interested in your responses.


AkMom said...


I have no rationale, so I guess I won't win, but I don't think it would have been kooky at all. 100% Kool!!!

CL said...

Unfortunately, I think it would make me a little uncomfortable if a stranger bought my meal in this situation. I understand why you were moved by the woman's kind behavior toward you -- it was one of those moments where something simple and quick touched you because of all the times people haven't behaved that way in your life. And also because you're a sensitive person who notices and dwells on small moments like this (which is not a bad thing. It's why I love your blog!) But I imagine the woman felt she didn't do much of anything for you. To receive a $20 meal might feel like an uncomfortably large gift in return for a simple offer to hold the door. I'm not trying to minimize what her actions meant to you, because I really do understand why the encounter touched you. But since she doesn't live your life, she doesn't know why you felt emotional about that moment. So to her, it might seem like she barely did anything for you, and suddenly you've spent $20 on her.

I think my reaction to this story is affected by my gender. As a woman, I've learned to feel burdened by gifts from men. If a man buys me a drink, he wants something from me. Even if all he wants is for me to pay attention to him while I drink it, we both understand that he feels I owe him in exchange for the drink. Older men who would never expect to date me sometimes treat me in that creepy "smile little lady!" way and then give me gifts out of nowhere, and I feel like they just manipulated me a little bit, because now if I don't respond with smiles and gratitude, I'm a cold bitch. I've noticed that because of those encounters, I instinctively panic and feel a little trapped when I'm presented with a gift from a stranger even when I know it's not a creepy or manipulative situation, like when a gay man buys me something. I'm gracious in those situations because I know my anxiety is uncalled for, but still overly apologetic about it (here let me give you money, please, are you sure?).

From what you described, I'm pretty sure that your proposed gift would not have been interpreted as anything creepy. I think she would realize that you weren't hitting on her. But it's possible that like me, she would iinstinctively feel uncomfortable that a stranger just spent $20 on her.

The Tangy Zangy gift was different because it was inexpensive candy (a couple of dollars I assume) and because you were talking about it with the man, making it a more natural moment. It wasn't a big enough gift to make him feel like you just spent real money on him, and it wasn't out of nowhere in a way that would be puzzling or unsettling. I've had pleasant experiences giving and receiving small gifts of food with strangers, especially sharing what I'm already eating (like cookies or something), and I think that's always a safe way to go.

Reading over my comment, I wonder if my feelings about gifts are weird and sad. I'm definitely open to hearing the other view and considering that I should let my guard down when a man buys me something. But this is how I feel, even though I think it's unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

because I have many friends in different situations (yes and some of them are more unable to do things that I can do, because their body is not constructed in the usual way) I more often recognize situations where a little help can do a lot.

But sometimes my help is offered an not really needed too.

When I can really help with my little effort, things are great. And if someone tells me he can manage on his own, this is good too.

I have to admit, that I would feel embrresed if someone would pay for my offer.

Sometimes a smile, a thank you or just seeing that someone can do something more easy is the best reward.

We should take that into consideration on a daily basis and not only for people with a disability.

But I can understand that you felt moved. Such moments sometimes make my day too.

Take care
Julia from Germany

theknapper said...

I vote zang. I think sometimes it's important to just go with your're not going to buy everyone a free dinner who opens a door, and she will continue to be a good person whether or not she gets a free meal.....sometimes it's fun to pay it forward.

Iris said...

I like CL's thoughts about the way that gift giving can be gendered, and I know all too well the panic that can come from being given something you didn't ask for. Still, the best way to remedy that is for people to give without expectation, which is precisely what you want to reward this woman for doing, yes?

Paying the whole tab might've been exorbitant, but I might have thought to send over something small instead (dessert? tea?) as a thanks.

Shan said...

I thought this comments section would be a slam dunk. I'm really, truly startled at CL's response, for instance, or Anonymous, or bookselves...if someone buys me something, I feel happy, feel grateful in a totally appropriate and genuine way. I feel like there's good in the world after all, if people can be spontaneously generous.

I must say I have done this a lot. I buy the meal and tell the wait staff to not mention it, just not bring a bill, at the end, so I'll be long gone.

I'll tell you something - every single time I'm in the Tim's lineup (less often Starbucks...I'm not a millionaire) I tell the girl at the window to add the total of the car behind me, to my bill. This happened to me once...I came through with my money and the DT staff smiled and said "You've received a random act of kindness. The lady in front of you bought your coffee." It changed my whole week. So now I do it, every time.

I think those little gifts have huge ripple's worth $20 to potentially change someone's week, or give someone hope, or restore someone's faith in human nature, or simply make them feel good enough that they DON'T go home and snarl at their partner and kick the cat.

Shan out.

Anonymous said...

I totally vote for Zang!!!

I was actually talking to a friend of mine last week and she told me a story about how her and her husband were at their favorite pizza place and some guy came up to the table and started asking about their food. The guy ended up asking if he could have some of their dinner (I can't remember if it was a piece of pizza or a wing) but her husband ended up saying that it was fine. They talked a bit and then the guy returned back to his table. My friends thought that it was a little bit strange that the guy asked for some of their dinner however he did seem quite nice. When my friends went to pay for their meal the waitress told them their dinner had been paid for by the man who was at their table as an act of kindness.

Another story that I was told was that when my friend went through a coffee drive thru and the car infront of hers paid for her order. She then returned the favor and paid for the car behind her. I have never seen this myself however apparently it happens quite a bit. One day I will try it too!

I realize that these stories are quite different from yours however yours made me think of these. I honestly feel that it is nice to do something for someone once in awhile to show appreciation or just cause!


Lori said...

I vote for Zang. Knapper beat me to my line, pay it forward when the urge strikes you. I remember vividly my grandfather paid for five high school couples dinner without them knowing it. He just loved seeing such well-mannered kids all dressed up for prom. They were flabbergasted and I like to think that it made an impression on them to pay it forward sometime. I know it impressed me then and still does today. It doesn't matter if the reason is as a thank you or just in acknowledgement like my grandfather did, its a spontaneous kind gesture and therein lies the beauty.


Joyfulgirl said...

Like CL I also understand why you wanted to do this and I know it came with the best of intentions but I too would feel uncomfortable. When I do make a big effort at something it is wonderful to get a thank you note or for someone to say thank you and that really feels deserved because I worked for it. I'm finding it hard to fully justify but I can totally relate to CL and other non-Zangers.

Tara said...

I vote for Zang.
I do this all the time: Recently I bought a can of coffee for a lady in line I had a conversation with. She was talking about how she hated to buy it "just for her" when money was so tight. She did not expect it, and I just paid and left while she was speaking to the woman behind her. I have done the same as Shan has at McDonalds. My family DOES think it's weird - my kids don't understand it. I am hoping they will at some point (they are 30, 26, 17 and 8) I am not wealthy either (but have "enough" where it would not negatively impact my family) and have been poor often and would've LOVED to receive the same kindness. I also, like you, complain AND compliment service accordingly to supervisors. I say always err on the side of doing a kindness.

Janelle said...


Absolutely. You can't overthink this, Dave. The art of "zanging" requires you to risk being seen as kooky or even worse having your kindness declined. I read this blog frequently and know that you take risks all of the time. This is just one more for the pile. The beauty of this one is that even a bad outcome won't negatively impact your life. You might dwell on it for a bit, but you'll push it aside to "zang" again because that desire will always be there. Once it starts, you'll find yourself doing it everywhere that you can. Yes, the dollar amount might be a bit higher for this particular "zang", but treat yourself. Like many of us, a twenty dollar bill won't make or break us, but you might have made someone's week. If you missed this one, don't worry! Another opportunity to "zang" is just around the corner!

Laura J. Bosch said...

I say Zang! I like the idea of "paying it forward" to people. I think this makes our world a happier place... one kind act that you have done for a complete stranger will cause them to pass that along to another, having a positive ripple effect on the community. Plus... why not say a simple thanks to a stranger for a kindness that they have shown you. :)

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I am with Joe on this one - I vote for not Zang.

I think that you have to just let her gesture of kindness stand. Once you pay her back you have in a sense lessened her kindness. Sorry Dave, I know you may not mean it this way, but it almost feels like you have to discharge the "debt". Let her act of kindness stand on its own. You are constantly doing your own acts of kindness for others. Let that be the cosmic balancing out.

I hope this gets to you.

Belinda said...

I would Zang. Never pass up the impulse to be irrationally kind. Someone once gave me yellow roses with some simple words of affirmation, which at the time soaked into my thirsty soul like water into desert sand. I have passed on those yellow roses several times since-- always telling the story to the recipients so that they would know "where" they came from :)and hoping that one day, when they know the moment has arrived to pass them on--they will.

Kristin said...

Zang with a caveat. I would do it anonymously so there would be no potential awkwardness (as mentioned by CL) and I might included a note Saying "I noticed your grace and generosity of spirit. Thank you for making the world a nicer place."

Liz Miller said...

I vote no zang, too. But going over to offer thanks for the way her help was offered would have been terrific.

Anonymous said...

My mother taught us to accept compliments and gifts simply by saying thank you; to do otherwise is rude to the giver. She taught us to give gifts with full hearts; that gifts, once given, belong to the recipient. She taught us to offer ourselves genuinely so as not to ask others to "guess what I'm thinking".
That woman's kindness opened your heart to offer agape; not as a payment of a debt.
Years ago I was greeted by 2 gentleman drunks in South Boston. I stifled an urge to give them $20, listening to the Judge's anticipation of their buying a bottle. I regretted it, but not until I read this post did I realize that I was really sorry that I had allowed that Judge to make me stingy with sharing love in the world.

Bailie Tinney said...

So I vote that you shoulda bought the meals! My rational is that I have been in this situation hundreds of times. I have two foster brothers that have CP and are blind. They grew up for 3 years is a nursing home :-( my little sister and I stumbled upon them when I was 16 and she was 13. We begged mom and dad to bring them home! LONG story short they hve lived in our home with my parents for almost 9 years!!! I am 24!!! YAY!!

Now to my point....the boys are in wheelchairs and we go and do lots of fun things and people are always offering money, baseball cards, toys, opening doors, offering blessings and prayers, ect. My family does not need any of that but we are serving God by taking care of the boys 24/7 and it is amazing the blessing in return. So when people who want to give something small/big to do the same, serve the Lord an feel as though they contribute, than by all means do it!!! It doesnt feel weird or kooky to get a large package of goodies at the door from an unknown person or have a man pay for a slushy at the ballpark for us all or even get a baseball card from a little boy for the boys (even though they are blind!) It is all simply a reminder when we see the joy on the face of the person giving that the boys are here on this earth and made like they are for a reason and it's to share and show Gods love even without words!!!!

So next time be kool and give!!!! It will bring you and her much joy for both the simple acts of kindness!!!

J. said...

I can see both sides. I love random acts of kindness. I know that feeling that CL talks about. It can feel uncomfortable as a woman to have a man do something for me. Even if he is doing it for purely kind reasons, some of us have a lot of painful baggage when it comes to being given something. The message that nothing is truly free has been burned pretty deeply into the flesh of some of us. For that reason, I would think paying would be a wonderful idea - as long as you had left by the time she discovered your gift. If you were still in the vicinity it could be awkward. There is no question about it meaning anything more than what you intended. That woman didn't know whether you were gay, straight or bi - let alone that you are simply a wonderful human being and one of the last people on earth who would abuse another - and if she had any painful history there, your having left would make it possible to receive your gift as just a gift.

It is great when people can give and receive freely - one of the best parts of being human. It is a sad fact that too many people have been traumatized by apparent acts of kindness and humanity that were really only tricks to manipulate them into awful situations. For that reason I think it is important to offer acts of kindness - but in a way that will feel safe to the recipient (since you do not know their story) as well as good to the giver.

Cindy B. said...

I often answer the question I am asked - and don't answer the question behind the question.

You asked Joe if it would be weird and he said yes. He didn't say to not do it - he simply said it would be weird!

As someone ahead of me said, perhaps a note to thank her that could have been left behind if you decided to not pay for their meal or maybe pay in advance for their dessert rather than the full meal.

Perhaps just a "pay it forward" moment as perhaps she was doing for you.

Anonymous said...

I vote Zang. Some of my favorite moments have been continuing a pay it forward in the drive thru line at a local fast food restaurant. One car would start by paying for their meal and the order of the person in the car behind them in line. That person would still pay - but for the meal of the person behind them. It's a nice random surprise that makes the wait time seem less, adds the joy of paying it "backward" and is a lot of fun for the employee manning the window. Zang away Dave!

Anonymous said...

I vote no for Zangy.

Other folks have said it better. I think that buying the meal and saying thanks for the offer of help is too much for what I would see as “just doing what was right”. It would make me very uncomfortable, in part because I prefer to go through life without public notice. But more importantly, it would make me self conscious and hesitant to offer help in the future, lest the person I was trying to aid thought that I was angling for payment, like those windshield washers who wash your windshield whether you want it or not.

Recently my husband and I helped a couple get their motorhome backed in to a campsite. We invited them out to dinner at an inexpensive burger joint, and they insisted on picking up the check. That only gave me minor twinges, because throughout dinner and the drive to and fro, they picked our brains for information on our fulltiming lifestyle. We’ve been fulltiming for a couple of years now; they just started the day before. There was value given in the gift of our expertise, returned with the gift of dinner. If the restaurant had been pricey, I wouldn’t have been as comfortable with the exchange.

But what I really remember about that encounter, and what made my week, was when one of the ladies thanked us for how we offered to help them, by asking if we could assist them rather than trying to muscle in. I think being thanked in words for the offer to assist would have made that woman’s day and made her remember the incident fondly and with pride. Buying her meal and thanking her would have led to more negative second-guessing – not at all the intended result.

Unknown said...

Zang: why not? You wanted to be nice, why stifle that impulse?

Mark Pathak said...

To quote your writing Dave, "I let her know that I was doing fine, that I'd lost my friend somewhere but that I really appreciated her offer of assistance. She smiled...." I think that the simple fact that you politely thanked her and she smiled back was enough, that probably made her day as well and left her in a really good mood!!

Im with Joe!

Liz said...

Zang. The fact that it's weird doesn't mean it's wrong to do it -- or, to go a step further -- sometimes it is /right/ to do the weird thing. She gave you an act of kindness; for you to return it would be fine. Plus, the chances are slim that you would ever see her again, so any discomfort on her part or yours would be short-lived.

Natalie said...


Here's my reason....when I was in high school there was a guy about 3 years younger than me. It didn't look as if he had much money as he always looked rough and dirty. He had sandy blond curly hair and big blue eyes and he reminded me of my Dad. I know from the stories that my father had told me and that others have told me about him that he probably looked the same way. I had a soft spot in my heart for this kid and I didn't and still don't know his name. I happen to be having lunch with my Mom at a McDonald's when he and a friend walked in. I watched them try to figure out what they could buy with the money that they had. They finally came up with an option and went to their seats. I wanted to so badly do something for him, that I decided to buy him and his friend a hot fudge sunday. I had the McDonald's employee deliver them to the table and requested that they not be told who did it. The look on their faces was priceless. She could have been delivering a sunday or a million dollars and I think it would have been the same.

Seeing "that face" has become somewhat addictive, I try to take every opportunity to do something nice for someone. There are a lot of adjectives that can be used to describe me and if weird is one of them then so be it. Sometimes I feel weird doing it, but I think that God wants us to be kind to one another. I still struggle sometimes thought. I am always left with this question after...why as a society do we feel wird doing nice things, but have no feelings attached to being dissmisve or ignorant?

Faery said...

Being in the UK I had to google the amount of money before I answered. Then I felt bad that I would judge my Zanginess on funds alone.

I was originally going to suggest that you zanged her a dessert or something rather than paying for the whole meal but I've changed my mind - zang away! This is a stranger - you're probably not going to get a chance to zang her again and if you really appreciated her help then why not express it?

That being said, I don't think you should fret over not zanging her. She wouldn't have expected it (which might make her more deserving) so she hasn't missed it.

Ceeej said...

I'm clearly in the Zang Zone.

Not Entirely Random Acts of kindness can never be wrong. The world is too cruel a place to second guess a gut feeling to do something nice for someone regardless of the reason.

I am often talked out of doing such nice things because it would be "weird" or "embarrassing". I hereby vow that I will no longer ask, I will just do.

Thanks for another great post and invitation to think about random acts of kindness.

Ashley's Mom said...


While such an action might make a small few people uncomfortable, I believe it would hugely brighten the day for most folks. And day brightening is a much needed thing right now around the world.

Doing such things makes the zanger feel good - makes the zangee feel good, and may even encourage the zangee to become a zanger.

Winners all around!

Anonymous said...

I say zang away. Here's my reason. I often need a little help to get what I need in life. Randomly a neighbor of mine who has some serious health issues will ask me to pick her up something from the store in my travels. One day I had to make 2 trips to the store because she asked me to get her some little thing after I was already home for the day. Not a big deal my scooter makes such errands a joy on a nice day! So off I went. As I was waiting in the line the cashier said something about 2 trips in one day and I told her the items were for my neighbor who wasn't feeling well. The cashier went off on a rant about how dare my neighbor ask me for anything she should be helping me, my life was hard enough yada yada yada.

I was taken aback because my first thought was how dare you assume that I am too mired in my own struggle to be nice someone else out the whole thing made me feel like a less worthy person.

Since then I have made an effort to do something nice for someone every single day. Sometimes they know sometimes they don't. Small things, a coffee, a kind word to someone who works in retail after they've been harassed by the customer in front of me, good manners are a must. I bought a kid who dropped his ice cream once a new one.
Why because I know that I need help with things. And for me it keeps the balance in check.
Never once have I had someone other then that very opinionated cashier, feel good about what I was trying to do!
And I got to feel good too win/win

Lauren said...

What about a mini-Zang? Buying the full meal does seem overly generous, I would feel like I owed you something back. But once I was at a very busy restaurant at a booth with one friend, and an elderly couple came in and were waiting for a table. There was no where to sit, and after a few minutes of them standing I scooted over next to my friend and offered the other side of our booth for them to sit at. They ended up "zanging us" by buying dessert. It was a nice balance of kindness but not too much to make us feel uncomfortable.

Rachel said...

I too vote for the mini-Zang. I think picking up their dessert or drinks or something would have been nice, but beyond that it seems like overkill.

What she did was super nice, and I'm all for the pay-it-forward idea. It's all in the perspective, and I'm sure in hers it was not the Big Deal it was to you.

Princeton Posse said...

OK, I had to think about this for a bit. I understand CL's feelings, having been in a similar situation. However, I love those random acts of kindness! Half of the fun though is that the recipient does not know who gave them a gift. I do a "secret santa" thing for several people in my community. They do not know who Santa is. I love it and it brings me joy all year round. Zang on!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Whoa!! I just got home from work to find all these comments. I continue to be impressed that discussion here on RAIMH is so respectful. Thank you all for that. I am going to take some time to mull over what's said so far and what is still to be said. Joe and I are both looking at these comments and talking about what happened. Too, I've had people at work and elsewhere respond to me personally. Everyone has very firm opinions on this.

As to the Tangy Zangy prize, I've decided not to pick one cause so many are terrific. In a couple of days, when all comments are in. I think I'll pull one from a hat. That way there is no bias in the decision. I'll also remove that 'one to give away' requirement as some may just feel uncomfortable with it. I'll still send two and you can Zang or not as you so please.

Kita said...

Zang! Just because you can!

Breanne said...

I vote not to zang. The first "zang" was truly a random act of kindness. There were no precipitating factors. He had not done anything to "deserve" being zanged. It was simply you wanting to do something nice for someone on an impulse not as a repayment of kindness they have done for you. If you had "zanged" in this instance it would not have the same implications or essence of the original "zang". She essentially "zanged" you with her kindness.

How would you have felt if the gentleman you "zanged", "zanged" you back. Would it have felt like a "payment" for your original kindness? Would that have cheapened the results of your actions in your eyes?

I think that much of society has come to feel the need to pay for what used to be a simple act of kindness, that way we feel less indebted to others. The best form of repayment is not monitarily but in spreading that feeling of goodwill to others and remembering kind actions when we are faced with unkindness.

I feel that the best way to "zang" this woman is to pay it forward to someone else in a random act of kindness.

Anonymous said...

If you care about your impact on other people - and I believe you do - you're rationale #1 would probably be to act in a way that causes no "squirming", or discomfort to others: Therefore: if you had gone with your gut feeling: tell the waiter to add your impulsive helper's bill to yours, that would have been the right thing to do. Hesitating, asking your bud for advise moved it to another sphere, and once you hesitate you add doubt which raises questions.
The offer to assist from the woman was spontaneous, I believe; as was your wish to foot her bill. Neither was necessary, neither was needed, both were coming from your hearts - both were right. Having said that, her reward for willing to assist you should/ought not need more than... a heartfelt "thanks!".
Complicated? No, just go with the gut feeling!
And, thanks for writing about living in this life!

Noisyworld said...

Wow, I was pretty sure where I stood until I read all these fabulous comments.
My first impression was to mini-zang, either cover the cost of desert or drinks or get something else sent over to them.
Now...I'm not sure, I think the fact you asked Joe suggests that you were not entirely comfortable with the idea but that could just be society's pessimism rubbing off on you.
I have no idea what you should have done but this has been fascinating :)

Susan said...

I vote for Zang! Why? Because I am addicted to zanging. Whenever I see a veteran in a restaurant (they are so easy to spot because of their legion jackets, or they'll drive in with a vanity licence plate that has a Legion symbol on it), I'll pay for their breakfast or dinner or whatever, and then get out of there. Especially if it's Remembrance Day, but any old day will do. I do it in honour of my father, who was a veteran. Every time I do I just know he's beaming down on me from heaven.

I've never been sorry zanging yet. Be excellent to each other. Zang on! :)

Anonymous said...

Zang for sure.....have done it several times over the years as an act of kindness sometimes thought out, sometimes spontaneously, as a nice gesture, gift or whatever you may choose to call it. It make me feel good inside and the people who are the receivers have never been offended. Follow your first thoughts, or go with your gut and as others have said no need to over think it just go with it. I call it pay it forward as do many others. If more people participated in such a thing there may be more smiles to go around in this hsctic society we live in.

Nan said...

I vote zang, but its not really a true zang, because its related to something the person did. A true zang is pure gift and pure grace. Not related to anything except being! It is a truly RANDOM act of kindness.

Anonymous said...

I vote No Zang.

I think your original Zang brightened the day of a painfully shy, rather friendless, and probably very lonely person. It was brilliant.

But if I were that woman in the restaurant, I would not want to have a meal bought for me for the simple act of being a kind, decent person.

Can I give an example?

Many years ago, I was waiting in the lobby of a hotel to pick up a friend. It was night, and the wind was wild and it was pouring rain--truly a miserable evening. I was sitting near the payphones and happened to overhear a conversation. It was gentleman of 50 or so, talking on the phone about the dead battery of his car in the hotel lot. He was late to an event, the hotel didn't have jumper cables, he didn't have AAA, and the person he was talking to was going to have to drive over an hour to come and help him out. He was in a tough situation. On an impulse, I went to the phone, tapped him on the shoulder, and offered the use of my jumper cables. When he heard what I was offering, he dropped the phone, grasped my hands, and said, "You can help me? Really???? You are an ANGEL!" He grabbed the phone back, triumphantly told his friend he was going to be okay, and we went out to the parking lot (in the pouring rain, mind you) and I helped him get his car started.

I can't tell you how delighted I was to have been at the right place at the right time and have been such a blessing to a complete stranger. But then my pleasure was spoiled. Because after he slammed the hood of his car shut and opened his car door, he fished in his overcoat for his wallet, pulled out a bill, and held it to me, saying, "This is for your trouble."

Well, the bottom dropped out of my heart. I told him I wanted no money, that I was merely glad to have been of service. And I walked back into the hotel.

I am still glad for what I was able to do, but that offer of money felt horrible. Like money could somehow make me feel good about helping a stranded soul on his journey. Instead of compensating me, that money robbed me of my delight at being able to turn misery to happiness.

I haven't thought of this in years, but I can tell you that I prefer to remember his initial burst of gratitude ("You are an ANGEL!") rather than his final one.

So, yeah. No Zang.


Jan said...

Zang !!!
This was your first instinct and I would go with it. You appreciated the woman's approach, realized that she was natural and backed off when you said no thanks. We give out negative vibes and comments when someone does something we do not appreciate. Why not Zang when we do

jamresgreenspan said...

Zangy at best moments.

Kiwiaussie said...

I had a read through all the comments to see if anyone else had thought of this, and it didn't appear so. So even thought this is a month later, I'm going to throw this out there....

Paying it forward isn't so much an act of returning the favour, it is about passing on our gratuity. So, I would have zanged someone different. Just randomly picked someone else in the vicinity, and paid for their meal instead.

The kindness you have been shown is then passed on to someone else who may be in need of a random act of kindness.

Those who give are blessed. I believe by God. Don't take away that blessing by repaying them yourself. Leave that to God to do. He can outdo you any day! But in giving to someone else instead, you become the angel who is possibly more desperately needed in someone elses life.