Thursday, March 20, 2014


"Thank you," he said to me, as he picked up his now-full jerry can, and stuffed the bill I'd handed to him into a pocket.

"No problem," I replied.

"Thank you," he continued. "Bless you."

There was a moment's silence between us.

"Thank you," he said again.

"You're welcome," I said. "Take care of yourself."

He turned to leave. I went into the attendant's station to collect my change.

I'd seen the gasoline can, bright red plastic, sitting on top of the transformer box by the corner and thought, "What a strange place to abandon a jerry can." It wasn't until I looked towards the corner, to gauge the progress of the cars in front of me, that I noticed him. An older, white man in a shabby brown hoodie, paunchy with thinning hair. He held a piece of cardboard. "Stranded," it read. "Out of gas Out of town Please help."

My car is older than my teenaged niece, and lacks a number of modern conveniences. Like power windows. So I raised my voice and pointed down the block after I stopped in front of him. "Meet me at the gas station." He looked in the direction I was pointing. "Okay, okay."

By the time he'd gotten there, I'd claimed a pump. He filled his jerry can. I gave him some extra cash. So that he could put some more gas in his car, or maybe buy himself something to eat. He thanked me, blessed me and thanked me again before we parted company.

I find blessings uncomfortable. To me, they're only words, but to the faithful, they have meaning, and I can't escape the feeling that they don't belong to me. Perhaps I take the words too seriously. Part of it is that it seems odd, for someone whom I've just given something to ask their deity to favor me with a blessing. I always feel that they need it more than I do - and then feel ungracious for feeling that way. Part of it is that it seems unearned. Sure, in a couple of weeks, all I'll notice is that I stopped at an ATM two days in a row, and be confused as to why, but in the end, it's an inconvenience, rather than a pain point. The generous give until it hurts.

I am not generous.

No comments: