A little while ago a friend and I were walking to school from the bus stop, a journey which takes us through Downtown Boston. Along the way we get stopped by a middle aged black woman who asks us for change so she could get something to eat. I typically don’t carry any type of cash on me so I apologetically told her that I couldn’t spot her any money. She then asked if maybe we could buy her some food because she was very hungry. This turned out to be a better situation, I thought, since often when I give people my change I’m afraid of what they’re really going to do with the money, considering one can find a free meal just about anywhere if you look hard enough (churches, homeless shelters, etc).
From where we were standing I could see a 7-11 up ahead so I start walking in that direction. A couple of bucks goes a long way at 7-11. She gets ahead of me and thanks me for my act of kindness and I tell her it’s no big deal and that I was just glad she was going to get some food. Suddenly she switches directions and crosses the street to a restaurant that I had never been to before called UDG. She says she can’t have any processed stuff because it’s bad for her, and she would rather have a salad. Again, I tell her it’s no big deal and that I’m just glad that she is looking out for her health. I could not expect what came next. She orders a custom salad, and decides to add the two most expensive toppings on the menu, avocadoes and salmon. I stood a little shell shocked at the shamelessness with which this lady was ordering, as if this was an every day type of thing.
By this point she has completely disregarded my presence and she continues to pile toppings on her salad, which after completion is taken to the register. At the register, she continues to shock me by adding a muffin and an orange juice to her order, all of which comes to a whopping $20 and change. I could have easily told her that there was no way I could afford that much. I could have told her that beggars can’t be choosers and that I would get her the salad and that was it. But I didn’t. I was instantly reminded of one of the most heartwarming and moving stories I have ever read, “Today you, tomorrow me.”
For those of you unfamiliar with this story, I have copied and pasted from Reddit. It was posted by the user /u/rhoner in response to a question about picking up hitch hikers.
Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn’t too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.
This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people’s cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.
Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket.”
But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.
He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn’t careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Fuck.
No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand but he wouldn’t take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.
So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by.
But we aren’t done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won’t take it. All I can think to say is “Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor” with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:
“Today you…. tomorrow me.”
Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t deal.
In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:
“Today you…. tomorrow me.”
On that day, it was that lady’s day. She was in need. And hell even if she was just trying to scam someone for a free meal, she wouldn’t be doing it (or at least I hope she wouldn’t) if she was financially stable. Although I am up to my neck in student loans, I knew I could feasibly cut back certain daily expenses to be able to afford this lady a proper meal. It may have stung a little then, but looking back, I wouldn’t change how that day played out.
That day her, tomorrow me.