Standard Deviations: April showers bring May lessons on life
“April showers,” they say, “bring May flowers.”
But that’s not all they brought this year. Because they also delivered to me a humbling lesson about kindness and service.
Anyone who knows my wife knows two things about her:
• Thing One: She’s a very private person, especially considering the very public nuisance she married.
• Thing Two: She’s a very kind person, especially considering the very … well, you get the idea.
Now, regarding Thing One, a key requirement a certain beautiful young woman had for agreeing to marry a starving-journalist-in-training 37 years ago was that I leave her out of my columns. And for the most part, I’ve tried to honor that request. But I feel I need to tell this story about her to illustrate my eventual point. And may God have mercy on my soon-to-be-sleeping-on-the-couch soul …
Being the well-prepared type, my wife (who asked me to at least not to use her name) always keeps an umbrella in her vehicle — a move that has really paid off this month, what with all the rain we’ve been getting of late. On her way to work one morning last week, during a cold, steady downpour, she was stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change when a young man in a hoodie hurried across the road in front of her. He was drenched to the skin.
Without hesitating, my wife rolled down her window and asked the twenty-something man if he would like an umbrella.
“That’d be great,” he said.
She reached on the seat next to her, picked up the umbrella, and handed it out the window to the young man. He took it, thanked her, and continued on his way to wherever. She rolled up her window, waited for the light to change, and continued on her way to work.
“I was kind of surprised he took it,” she admitted later, “because it had brightly colored flowers all over it.”
This umbrella story is only the latest example of my wife’s charitable spirit. Whenever we’re in line at Walmart and the person behind us has fewer items in their cart, she insists they go ahead of us. When she’s at the grocery store and the person in front of her is fumbling for loose change to cover their purchase, she reaches into her wallet and makes up the difference. And when she sees someone struggling to load something into their vehicle, or picking up something that’s spilled, she goes over and pitches in.
She’s always helping people. All. The. Time.
It would be totally annoying if it weren’t so completely endearing.
Ah, but our story doesn’t end there. The very next day — again, a cold, rainy one — I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment near Weber State University and had just enough time to grab a bite for lunch. Deciding to try the new Taboo Pizzeria featured in the pages of our GO! magazine, I parked behind the restaurant near the Utah State Liquor Store.
When I got back to my vehicle after lunch, I noticed what looked to be an older Native American woman in a wheelchair, just sitting there in the liquor store parking lot in a steady rain.
As I sat there, watching her in my rear-view mirror, I remembered the lesson of my spouse.
I rifled through my computer bag on the floor of the seat next to me, looking for the small umbrella I kept there for rainy days. Finally finding it, I began to open the door and looked in the rear-view mirror again.
She was gone.
At first, I thought maybe this was one of those Three Nephite stories that people in Utah sometimes like to tell; she had seemingly vanished without a trace. But as I backed out of my parking space and began heading through the parking lot toward the street, that’s when I saw her in the distance, rolling down the sidewalk on Harrison Boulevard — in the opposite direction I was going.
I should have turned around and chased after her, should have given her my umbrella. But that would have made me late for my doctor’s appointment, I rationalized. Chalking it up as a missed opportunity, I went on with my day.
Now, I know that my wife isn’t the only kind person on the planet. All sorts of amazing people do all sorts of amazing things, every day, for those around them.
But she’s the example I see every day.
At a time when we seem to be constantly at each others’ throats in this country, angry at one another for offenses both real and imagined, little kindnesses like a flowered umbrella help remind me of our shared humanity.
Although I failed at my feeble attempt at the Umbrella Challenge, I like to think that my wife’s little act of service didn’t die in that moment. I like to think the man in the hoodie — touched by my wife’s gesture — was determined to pay it forward. Perhaps, as he neared his destination, he saw someone else in need of an umbrella and gave it to them.
And I further like to think that maybe one rainy spring day in the distant future one of my children or grandchildren will be walking somewhere, cold and wet, and some passing motorist will roll down their window just long enough to pass along a tattered, well-used umbrella with brightly colored flowers on it.
Because I believe April showers really do bring May flowers.