What $12.50 Taught Me

Don and I left Planet Fitness joking about our love-hate relationship with the elliptical. On the way home we debated whether to kill our workout with a chocolate shake.

About that time, Don strained to get a clearer look at something on the roadside. He said, “That looked like someone pushing a wheelchair!”

I thought Don was exercise delirious until he confirmed, “Yep, there’s a man pushing a wheelchair, all right, and the woman in it is holding two paper sacks.”

 We pulled off the busy highway to the safety of a side street. We waited for the man and woman to make their way to us. As they drew closer to our car, I felt a little uneasy. I wanted to help them but was more than a little nervous about stopping. “Don,” I cautioned, “These are total strangers. Be careful.” Always the Good Samaritan, Don hopped out of the car.
As he chatted with them, I wondered what this couple was doing out on such a dark night. What could they be up to?  Don talked easily with the two and quickly offered them a ride to wherever they were going. 

The man straightened long enough to say, “No, don’t need a ride. We’re almost there, but could you spare $12.50?” Don told him we didn’t have any cash.  

The woman sat helplessly in the chair. Her husband mumbled something about an appointment, said he was headed to the McDonald’s to get a job, and mentioned the $12.50 again. 

When Don climbed back into the car, we drove away but neither of us felt right about doing nothing to help. Oh sure, I admit I was a little afraid when we first stopped. I thought, “This is how good folks get robbed and beaten or worse.” 

I was suddenly ashamed I’d been so suspicious. After all, the man hadn’t asked for much, had he? Just $12.50. Little more than the cost of a couple of shakes and maybe even a little less than a couple of Venti® Starbucks drinks. 

With that in mind, Don and I headed to a nearby bank. We withdrew a few dollars and went to the McDonald’s in search of the pair. When we pulled into the parking lot, Don spotted the gentleman. The two shook hands and Don said, “This isn’t much, but I hope it helps.”  
The man took the single bill and explained his last paycheck from his previous job would be in the mail by the first of the week.

Once home, the cynic in me returned, “You know, Don, he may have been lying to us, may use the money for drugs. Or, we may drive past them tomorrow and find her pushing him!”

The minute the words left my lips, I wanted to take them back. I wanted to be more trusting and generous, willing to give without asking so many questions—like the elderly stranger in overalls who’d helped my friend Lisa when she needed it most.

Lisa and her little girl, Maddie, were suddenly on their own. Now, a single mom, Lisa struggled to pay the bills and also buy food and other necessities. 

Once when they were grocery shopping, Lisa walked the aisles watching her small cart fill quickly. She knew she had only a few dollars in her purse and wondered how she was going to pay for everything they needed. When she got almost to the register, she prepared herself to put some items back. 

With only one customer in line ahead of her now, Lisa bit her lip, fighting back the tears. Maddie twirled in circles and sang the “Hokey, Pokey.” Lisa nodded absently to an elderly man in overalls who stooped to say something to Maddie.

When he walked away, Maddie lifted her little hand and opened her fist to reveal a wad of money.

Lisa’s eyebrows raised as Maddie exclaimed, “That old man said ‘God told me to give this to you.’”

“God told me to give this to you.” 

The elderly gentleman’s words ran through my mind. I suddenly despised my own selfishness. I wondered how often I’d missed an opportunity to help someone because I was too distracted to see the need, too frightened to take the risk, or just didn’t have any cash on me.

With that, I made a decision to lift my eyes, to be willing to show courage, and to keep a little cash on hand—just in case.