D. Louise Brown

Louise Brown

The man in the long, wool coat who threw the $100 bill at them left so quickly they scarcely even saw him. It happened that fast.

It’s an unalterable fact that we cannot do something kind for someone without some residual goodness bouncing back to us. We can’t haul a sack of canned veggies to the food bank, drop a donation at the homeless shelter, go caroling, fulfill an Angel Tree wish or share what we have with someone else and walk away unchanged. It’s a natural consequence. Some call it “karma.” Some call it Heaven. But whatever “it” is, it drives us to do good for someone else, then do it again. In fact, it is possible to get addicted to that feeling. Plenty of remarkable people change lives every day.

A story recently came to me that underscores how one good act can lead to another, sometimes in a peculiar way. The story was related to me by two people near and dear — a generous young woman and her like-minded husband who unexpectedly found themselves on the receiving end.

This young couple purchased a new-to-them used truck through a dealership. They had saved for it and were pleased with their purchase. A few days later, as the young husband rummaged around in the truck, he discovered a compartment they overlooked during the purchase. Imagine his surprise when he opened it up and found a large stash of quarters. He got a box, scooped the quarters into it, and took it into the house to show his wife. Both were stunned.

They called the salesman who told them since the quarters were in the truck when they purchased it, the quarters were theirs. He was not interested in contacting the previous owner; he insisted they keep the money.

This young couple sat back and considered their good fortune. Christmas was coming; who wouldn’t want some added cash for that, right? Actually, they did not. They assessed their own circumstances, felt they were OK and concluded that a nearby family they knew would benefit more from this unexpected windfall. They decided to run the quarters through a coin counter to exchange it for easier-to-give bills. They herded their two young kids into the truck and headed to the bank just before it closed.

At the coin counter, located in a small corner room to shield the noisy operation away from the other customers, they were so focused on dropping handfuls of quarters into the machine, they didn’t notice the well-dressed man until he stood beside them. She looked up into the eyes of an embarrassed man who threw a $100 bill at her, said awkwardly, “I think you dropped this,” then fled. She and her husband stared at each other in shock. He finally said, “Did what I think just happened happen?”

With new eyes, they looked at each other and their children. The two of them were dressed in grubby clothes with paint splotches on them that matched the bedroom walls they painted earlier that afternoon. Their young daughter’s self-chosen outfit consisted of a torn fairy gown with floppy wings, mismatched socks and worn sandals. Their son’s well-used basketball jersey was almost as shabby as his shoes — his favorite sports outfit. Amused joy crept into their eyes and giggles grew as they realized their generous donor had likely assumed this young, tattered family was counting out their year’s worth of change to make a Christmas for their two children. “We asked ourselves what we should do with the $100 bill,” she said. “It was simple; we added it to the quarters money and gave it all away.”

Every person in her story — the young family, the anonymous donor and the recipient family — was lifted. She just wishes she could thank that man.

So, if you were the kind fellow who shared with a family you perceived was in need, please know your money went to a good cause. As you walked (or actually scurried) away from that scene, surely you felt the joy that comes from a generous, spontaneous deed. Bravo to you. And thanks for the reminder that a good deed blesses everyone involved.

Of course, we can do good all year long. But this year’s peculiar Christmas season gives us more chances than ever to look for need, bless some lives and collect some karma.

In spite of the challenges, we can actually make this the best Christmas ever.

Who wouldn’t want to get in on that?

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!