Can I buy you lunch?: update, Pay it Forward.

Against Compassion

“Compassion can never be made compulsory and cash-flow positive at the same time.”

Over at American Digest, an archived post from 2009 but re-opened for new (Obie 2nd term) comments.  It resurrected an old memory.

It’s been a while since I’ve thought of this. Many, many years ago I stopped to have lunch in a restaurant, a simple place in the center of an New England small town. As I was eating I became aware of the conversation between the waitress and the two people at the next table.

An elderly woman and a young boy were sitting down and going over the menu.  The boy, like a lot of young children for whom the experience of the restaurant was new, was listening to the older woman list all the possibilities on the menu.  After a while the child’s selection was complete.

It was then that the grandmother (as I supposed her to be) pursed her lips and frowned slightly as she reviewed the menu again.   She asked about specials and their prices before ordering only coffee.

At that boy’s age I had been blessed with a small mob of Danish old women; grandmothers, aunts and their friends.   All plump and prosperous, from which poured a steady river of pies and cakes and the wonderful Danish cookies still warm from the oven.   This elder was not plump.   I didn’t have much experience with hunger, but I would have said that woman was hungry.   Obviously all her funds were earmarked for the boy’s lunch.

I found out then that I was missing a vital skill-set.   I didn’t know how to offer that woman the money she needed for lunch.   Not of course how to find my cash and carry it over to that table and put it down, but how to do it without embarrassing either of us.

I haven’t thought about this for a long time, but I thought about it intensely that day and from time to time afterward.   Some time later I considered I had over-analyzed the whole thing. paralyzed by my own fear.

Fear of refusal,  humiliating her,  anger.   Ruining her perfect moment of self-sacrifice.   Changing the boy’s view of her.

There is a statement at the end of the posts on American Digest, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.”.

I agree. In fact I would offer an corollary, “It is impossible to commit an act that cannot be misunderstood”.    Since Gerald still puts up the commenting page, he is obviously not asking us to not speak.   But don’t get paralyzed worrying about how what you might say could be misinterpreted.   And don’t be stopped from doing what feels right by fear.   Since then, I’ve already made a fool out of myself so many times,  today I think I’d walk over put a Ten-spot in the old ladies hand and say,  ”Growing girls need to eat”.

If she responded with, “Who’s that grinning idiot over there eating a cold lunch?”,    Fine.

Update:

Ma’am, Your Burger Has Been Paid For

IF you place an order at the Chick-fil-A drive-through off Highway 46 in New Braunfels, Tex., it’s not unusual for the driver of the car in front of you to pay for your meal in the time it took you to holler into the intercom and pull around for pickup.

“The people ahead of you paid it forward,” the cashier will chirp as she passes your food through the window.

So That’s how you do it! Wouldn’t have helped me on that long-a-go day, it wasn’t a drive-thru.

Perhaps the largest outbreak of drive-through generosity occurred last December at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when 228 consecutive cars paid it forward. A string of 67 cars paid it forward in April at a Chick-fil-A in Houston. And then a Heav’nly Donuts location in Amesbury, Mass., had a good-will train of 55 cars last July.

Serial pay-it-forward incidents involving between 4 and 24 cars have been reported at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Del Taco, Taco Bell, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Maryland, Florida, California, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North Dakota, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington.

God Bless Us, Everyone!

religions

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About On the North River

Forty years toiled in the Tel-com industry, married for 36 years widowed at sixty-one. Tea Party supporter. Do like to kayak, cook, take photos, bike, watch old movies and read. 66 years old and have a new girlfriend!
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3 Responses to Can I buy you lunch?: update, Pay it Forward.

  1. thirdnews says:

    The argument against compassion punishes the giver too; though, I think it does have to be on your own terms. I don’t like to give cash to alcoholics, and drug addicts because there is culpability in it but I keep snacks in my car, and I always engage in conversation -I think it easy to feel less than human when ignored

    BTW, I would have bought the lunch and said it was for your own happy memory of being treated by your Danish grandmother, and told the boy, you expected him to honor his grandmother when he too reached manhood

  2. Vanderleun wasn’t giving an argument against compassion, but an explanation of why his feelings changed in regard to street beggars, and all the demands for money he’s received over the years throwing compassion at him like a slap in the face. Becoming more compulsory, bleeds the satisfaction out of the soul.

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