Friday, December 10, 2010

Giving Back Is the New Black

I'm not going to lie, it's been a rough week for me. I'm desperately trying to figure out how to balance three kids and a fledgeling writing career on 5 hours of sleep a night. As a result I'm prone to wandering around town running errands in yoga pants and Uggs with zero make-up and eyes so red I could be an albino.

It ain't pretty.

To add insult to injury, stuff keeps going wrong. All those Christmas pictures I was stressing out over? Lost 'em when I loaded them to my Mac because I had no memory left. Packages that were supposed to arrive days ago, still haven't shown up. Husbands that were supposed to get home at 6 PM get stuck in freak snowstorms and walk through the door at 9:45 PM. Workouts that are supposed to relieve stress are cut short by one 14 pound child who REALLY wants to eat and doesn't like bottles.

I'm not going to lie, I'm a kind of a train wreck.

And Wednesday was no exception. I have about 2 hours while the kids are in preschool to run errands, write, hit the gym, and pretend that I'm not slowly losing my mind due to sleep deprivation. This Wednesday I was stuck going to National Tire and Battery to get my car battery checked. Just what I felt like doing during my two hours of me time.

So I walk in with Ben who immediately poops his brains out and I'm told it's going to be a half hour before they can get to my car. I'm left with choosing between a stinky baby or a car that may or may not break down in 25 degree weather while I'm schlepping around 3 kids.

I opted for door #1. Stinky baby for the win.

I sat in there, bouncing the baby seat, half asleep in a hard plastic chair trying to pretend like my crying baby didn't stink to high heaven. I waited almost exactly 30 minutes till the nice man at the desk called my name.

I walked up there prepared for the worst. I probably needed a new alternator or at the very least a new battery. I definitely wasn't expecting to get out of there for less than $200. The guy patiently explained that it wasn't my battery that was failing, it was the radiator. Apparently it was low on some type of fluid so they added more and I was good to go. When I asked him how much I owed him, he just smiled and said there was no charge. Editorial note from Laura: this may or may not be a free service they offer to every customer. But I like the idea of a random act of kindness too. In fact, my first year teaching, I created a Random Act of Kindess Club. Yep...

I was sort of floored. I mean, when's the last time you had a complimentary service? Especially at a car repair shop. My shock must have shown because he laughed and told me to have a Merry Christmas. Now I'm sure replacing radiator fluid free of charge isn't a big deal, but it was the best news I'd had in a long time, so I decided to pay it forward.

My next stop was Target and my plan was simple. I'd buy a $15 gift card and hand it to the first person I saw who was walking in the door as I was walking out. As I was leaving the store I handed a random girl a $15 gift card and told her that someone did something nice for me that morning and I was paying it forward. She smiled so big that her face practically split in half and told me to have a blessed day. Editorial note from Laura: Lisa told me this story the day it happened and suggested we pay-it-forward. How terrible is it that I've been wracking my brain ever since and nothing seems good enough? The Hershey Kisses we used to leave on kids' desks when I was teaching is small-time.

It felt so good to do something randomly nice for a stranger and I'm sort of hoping that she was inspired to do something nice for someone else that day. Maybe the guy at the repair shop started a tiny little wave of good deeds that will spread some cheer this holiday season. Who knows, maybe a few of you will be inspired to do the same thing. Maybe you'll make someone's day by returning a grocery cart or paying for someone's coffee.

Maybe this year giving back is the new black. Editorial note from Laura: It's on.

30 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Yes, changing the radiator fluid (or adding some) is really simple, but you can't expect most car shops to even pop your hood for free, so that is an awesome story. And I LOVE your attitude about it. Most people would smile and go on about their day, but not you kind of people. It IS on.

Jill Hathaway said...

Yay! I love random acts of kindness! Like the guy who paid for my breakfast last week. Soooo great.

Simon C. Larter said...

Well, crap. I thought snark was the new black. Now I'm out of style.

And how do you expect me to further my reputation as a sardonic, cranky bastard with all this encouraging me to be nice and spread holiday cheer and such? Seriously, you're in danger of giving me warm fuzzies here. I don't do warm fuzzies.

*sighs*

(P.S. You're good people.)

Loretta Nyhan said...

Yes!!! I love this!!

(And hang in there, my friend...)

DL Hammons said...

A career lurker would like to say...I LOVED THIS...and needed this!!! Thank you!! :)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks for sharing this great story. I can just imagine the look on that girl's face when you gave her the gift card. =o)

Katie said...

Love it! I'm inspired!!!! GREAT POST! And hang in there with the sleep deprivation. I feel for you. It's THE HARDEST THING EVER!!!!!!! I used to wake up in a dazed panic after a 30 minute nap at 2 pm convinced the pillow between my knees was the baby. I got so mixed up I didn't know which way was up. So, I can't even begin to imagine trying to write during this phase. Or blog. Wow. Keep up the good work!

Every day will get better.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I like nice warm fuzzy stories of niceness! Bring it on!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oh, what a sweet story. Don't worry, Lisa, it's does get easier. Okay, I didn't feel that way after my third child was born, but that's because #1 has ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome (high functioning form of autism). I had it really rough, but things did get better.

Now I look like how you decribed because I'm a writer. I even have bleach splash marks on my yoga pants (from the one day I decided to clean my house!!!!).

storyqueen said...

I can't tell if I am sleep deprived or if I am just a perpetual 2nd grade boy, but I am still laughing about "pooping his brains out."

Still.

Thanks for paying it forward...every good deed we do in this world helps, you know?

Creepy Query Girl said...

Awe, what a great story! Must've felt good giving that certificate away too. The stinky baby, broken car dilema gave me a knot in my stomach- brought me back to 'those days I try not to remember' from when the girls were really small...leaking breastmilk, screaming children, dirty diapers, thinking insane sleep depraved thoughts...*shudders* My husband would like me to go back to 'baby land' but I'm not ready yet.

Kelly Lyman said...

Great story! I just give you props for doing all of that running around with an infant. If I don't have to leave my house, I stay put. And I hear ya on the whole juggling 3 kids thing- if and when you figure it out, let me know! It at least makes me feel better to know that one other person I "know" is up in the middle of the night too and only getting 5 hours of sleep!

Katy Longshore said...

You know, I heard on the radio last night that giving actually makes you feel better than receiving -- scientifically proven. So I'll take your advice. Thanks.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Love it! What a great way to pay it forward.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

LOVE this. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this. It's my personal motto that when something really sucks, you do something really kind (not just then, but yanno). Always, it makes the world seem a little lighter.

Dang it, you guys make me all sappy. Can I send you a $15 gift card? Or like come over and babysit while you sleep? You deserve something way nicer than a fluid refill (I can also do that, but lets make it vodka).

Sara B. Larson said...

I know I'm all emotional anyway after writing my post today, but this made me teary eyed. Not just because you're so sweet to pay it forward like that (LOVE this post), but because I can feel your desperation bleeding through my computer. I'm sorry things are so hard right now. It always makes me feel better when I do something nice for someone else. But I sure wish I could do that something for YOU. What can I do? Seriously, even though I don't live by you, is there anything I can do?? I'm thinking about you. *hugs*

Laura Marcella said...

Maybe he was really doing himself a favor because he wanted stinky Ben out of there ASAP, lolol.

But seriously, that's really sweet. How kind of you to remember to pay it forward when you're stressed out enough with everything. I hope you receive many magical surprises this Christmas!

Marsha Sigman said...

I love it. ON.

Laura Pauling said...

I remember that stage of having a baby! You can do it! Just don't try and pressure yourself to do everything. It's okay if you don't. :) Thanks for sharing.

Carrie said...

Wow. What a nice thing the car people did and also a great thing to pay it forward and make someone else's day brighter too.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent post.

I'm going to email you...

Krispy said...

Wow, that's awesome! Totally would've made MY day. I think we should all strive to be randomly kind when we can. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Yay for radiator guy!!! Love hearing stories like this. I do Random Acts of Kindness activities with my students too. I hope it catches on. :)

And the chaos will get better. Try to fit in some relaxation in there for yourself ... or at least some sleep!

Erica said...

What a fabulous story -- and an even better idea. The nicest thing the dealership ever did for me was wait until my kids were out of earshot to tell me there was a dead bunny under my hood. (Which was nice, I grant you, but not free radiator fluid nice.)

lostinbelieving said...

Oh wow, considering what you've been through this week that would definitely have made my day too. And that is such a nice thing you did! People need that little boost whether you know it or not and your probably made that girls day by doing so. You inspired me to do something nice, so I am going too. Pay it forward :)

~Alison

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That was lovely! I'm not sure what I'm going to do (as we are awaiting a blizzard), but I'll do something. :)

Corey Schwartz said...

Aw, what a heart-warming story! I think Laura should take your kids for the afternoon and let you have a long nap :)

Joanne Fritz said...

Terrific post! Very sweet and funny at the same time (I'm still laughing about the stinky diaper baby).

Yep, sleep deprivation can do weird things to you. I'm amazed you had the presence of mind to pay it forward. Good for you, Lisa!

~Jamie said...

My most favorite thing on the planet to do is to buy the car's coffee behind me in the starbucks drive-thru. Sure, it's a 4 dollar cup of coffee, and sure they wouldn't be buying it if they couldn't afford it, but I love how it's virtually anonymous, and they never even have to thank me for it!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love the idea of paying it forward. I'll have to think of some kind of random kindness I can pass forward.

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