Once in a while, I witness something magnificent when I’m near the river. When I take the time to stop and really look, I’ll often notice a bird I’ve never seen or, during the winter months, an amazing show of ice shelves that have shifted so much that they resemble an ancient formation of crystals. However, this evening I witnessed something that inspired me to do something more than just smile at nature’s majesty.
It was around 5:15 pm — right at the midst of rush hour traffic here in the Metro St. Louis area. I live on the IL side, and I usually avoid going across the river for gas during rush hour because it’s less dangerous to wait and go later on than to have to attempt to cross the busy highway with the setting sun shining brightly in my face. I had to go to the bank before it closed today, so I decided I may as well make the short trip over to fill up the gas tank while I was out. I made it to the River’s Edge gas station easily enough, made my purchase and walked out to pump the gas that I’d paid for into my vehicle.
The wind picked up just a bit as I maneuvered the pump into my tank, so I wrapped my coat around me a bit tighter and held it there with one hand, as my other hand firmly gripped the handle of the gas pump. It was 40 degrees outside, but when you’re near the river, it often feels like an icy blast from the North Pole. As I watched the total rise, I noticed there was something going on with two customers at a pump 2 rows over and caddy-corner from me. An elderly white woman was apparently having trouble getting the pump to accept her credit card. A young black woman with beautiful long braids was at the other side of the pump and came over to try to assist her.
Although I couldn’t hear the two of them talking, I could see that the older woman was frustrated with the machine (those machines can be quite finicky at times) and the young woman was doing her very best to help. I watched the two chat, witnessed the patience the young lady displayed with the elderly woman, and eventually watched the older woman become calm. I saw several smiles exchanged between them as I pumped my gas. It gave me a sense of warmth. I didn’t even notice the cool breeze that had given me such a chill before. When my pump stopped, I replaced the nozzle in its holster and started to reach for my door.
Then I stopped.
I felt compelled to do something to let the young lady know that I appreciated seeing her act of kindness, so I walked back into the store to see if they had any flowers. I walked around the store, but they didn’t have any out that I could see. The line at the registers had grown, so I walked back out to my vehicle and got in. Frustrated, I looked in my purse and saw a $5 bill in there, so I pulled it out and drove over to the two women. When I stopped my vehicle, the young lady looked over at me. I said, “Can you come here for a moment?” As she approached my vehicle, I started to say, “I’d like you to have this…” as I extended my hand with the $5 bill in it. She turned and walked away, saying something, but I couldn’t hear her. I opened my door and got out.
As I approached her, I said, “I’d like for you to have this. I saw you helping this woman and I thought it was a wonderful act of kindness. I wanted to buy you a flower, but they didn’t have any inside.”
“No, no, no. I’m not taking it. You’ll have to chase me around the parking lot to get me to take that,” she said with a bit of a laugh.
“Please, I want you to have it,” I said, “I know it’s not much, but I watched you helping her while I pumped my gas and it made me happy, so I wanted to do something nice for you.”
“No, no, no. I’m not going to take it. Really,” she said.
I could see she was serious about not wanting to take my money. I had already followed her halfway around her car while trying to give her the money and, not wanting to increase what was now becoming a somewhat awkward feeling, I said, “Fine, but I want you to know that I appreciate what you did. It’s nice to see people helping people. We don’t see it enough anymore.”
And with that, I left.
I’m sure I looked insane and maybe she thought I was insane. All I know is that I wanted to do something nice for someone simply because I saw them doing something nice for someone else. She helped an elderly woman feel comfortable, more at ease. I know she didn’t expect anything for doing that and THAT is the true measure of her as a person. She didn’t feel like she deserved anything for being nice and helpful. She did it just because that’s who she is. She did it because she’s a beautiful person.
So, to the beautiful young black woman at the River’s Edge gas station in West Alton, Mo., I saw you and you know I saw you, so you know who you are. I saw your beautiful, kind and caring nature and I want you to know that I think your act was worth far more than the $5 I tried to give you because YOU are priceless. I also want you to know that you inspired me.
You inspired me to keep my eyes open when I’m out and about so that I don’t miss magnificent moments like this.
You inspired me to have more faith in humanity.
You inspired me to smile, to feel, and to act on those feelings.
I know it may seem silly to think so much of such a simple act, but in a world full of so much hate, I feel blessed to have witnessed your kindness. Thank you for that.
It truly is amazing the things you’ll see when you take a moment to stop and look.