When someone is struggling to accomplish something that’s important to him or her, but doesn’t have all the resources to get there, I’ve sometimes stepped in to help. Here are two examples:
EXAMPLE #1: Rouddy owns a taxi in Turks & Caicos, an island in the Caribbean where I’ve vacationed a number of times. David and I became friendly with him on one trip many years ago, when he transported us from place to place. On the way to the airport at the end of the vacation, Rouddy’s van was intensely hot because the air conditioner was on the fritz. He explained that he was negotiating to get a new van but didn’t have the entire down payment. When I asked him how much he needed, he said $1,500. I wrote him a check, explaining it was a gift, not a loan!
On our next few visits to T&C, Rouddy chauffeured us, gratis, in his cool new van (literally and figuratively). We also met his wife and little son. I haven’t been to the island in years, but Rouddy makes sure to stay in touch, wishing us happy holidays, and asking how David and I are doing.
EXAMPLE #2: When Laura was released from prison after 16 years, around 2004, I interviewed her for a magazine article about her transition into society, and took an immediate liking to her. We developed a friendship, and I subsequently bought Laura a new wardrobe, helped her get a rent-subsidized apartment, and guided her as she searched for a job. After you’ve spent almost two decades in prison, it’s a struggle to be accepted by, and live in, the “outside world.”
Laura and I also have been in touch over the years. I was invited to the ceremony when she married her long-time boyfriend about two years ago, and I’ve recently helped her launch her own cleaning service. She continues to work hard to make something of herself, although it hasn’t been a cake walk.
I am not rich, but I’ve worked hard all my adult life and earned a decent living, and I’ve never laid awake at night wishing I had a mansion, a swimming pool, gigantic diamonds or handbags named after Grace Kelly. Although I do wish I could have bought Rouddy the van outright, I’m lucky I’ve been able to help people like him and Laura, even modestly.
But doing kind things for others doesn’t always require cold hard cash.