Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weird, Cool, Unexpected

Ever had anything really weird but really cool happen to you? Like taking your best friend's girlfriend to the prom (guilty), but more unexpected? I just did. As the capper to my amazing SA experience, I found myself in a grocery store with two packets of Raman in my hand and caught in an endless debating between two pieces of bread, at a price difference of just over a rand ($0.12). It was a sad sight.

Then, out of the blue, a South African women with dark hair walks up to me. She says, "Can I give this to you?" A hand outstretches with 20 rand. "Why?" I asked. Saying I was confused would be as big an understatement as saying that Brett Favre comebacks are annoying. "I don't know," the woman replied, "something is just telling me that I need to give this to you." My jaw was laying on the ground. I didn't know what to say, and I'm not even sure if I said anything. With that she turned and left, and was out the door in no time. I think I said thanks, but who knows.

For the next five or so minutes, I looked really awkward, walking around the supermarket, looking for nothing in particular and just replying the scene in my head like a rejection by a girl who was out of your league to begin with (also guilty). I probably looked like I was lost. Or a little slow. I just kept asking myself, "Really?" Do I look famished and hungry? Homeless? Did she steal something out of my bag at the front and feel bad about it?

After checking out, instead of listening to my planned "This American Life" podcast on the long walk home, I just walked in silence. I thought about what had happened; how nice the people of South Africa had been to me. I thought to myself: "Wouldn't it be absurd if someone offered me a ride?" 30 seconds later, without me even trying to flag anyone down, a white BMW pulls up. "Do you need a lift?" said the female driver, just a few years older than I. My jaw had broken off at this point. This is stupid absurd. But, looking back, it was about par for the course after the amazing hospitality I received while in the SA.

To me, it's amazing the amount of impact you can have on someone for the price of $3. Not only did I immediately become a life-long fan of South Africa, but I also felt something really unexpected. I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I had never done something like that for a stranger, at least not that I can remember. Was I too selfish? Was I too busy to think about others? Or, was I in such an insecure financial position that I never considered just handing out money?

That was about two weeks ago (yes, I'm now back in Mozambique). I didn't really think about the occasion too much since then, until just yesterday. That movie Pay It Forward got in my head somehow, and while I've never seen it (I think that little kid is kinda creepy), I understand the concept. So, I took the 20 rand now converted into Mozambican meticais, divided it three ways, and added a little to make it substantial enough. And I started handing out money. It's not as easy as it looks...try it and you'll understand...but it's great fun. And even more fun to wonder what they're thinking. I already gave out one of my three sums, and I'm waiting for the next two opportunities to arise. Something will tell me when the time is right.

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