I had the most unusual experience on the train home tonight. I was sitting there gazing out the window, my mind a million miles away, when I heard a voice beside me say, “Excuse me. Do you drink coffee?” I looked over and saw a Native woman about my age. I said yes I do drink coffee – in the mornings when I’m trying to wake up. With that, she slipped a $5 bill from her pocket into my hand. I sensed an importance to what she was doing and held the crumpled bill, waiting.
With a soft voice she launched into a story about how someone had given her five fives today and she felt that she couldn’t keep them all; that it was in some way bad luck. I didn’t understand much of what she was saying. She talked around in circles, embarrassed, yet seeming compelled to carry on. Her words kept tumbling out; then she’d laugh and make a self-deprecating comment.
I kept watching her while she talked, maintaining eye contact. Something about this interaction held me spellbound and I wanted to show the utmost respect to her. Finally I said, “I think I understand.” She laughed. She thought I meant I understand you’re nuts, Lady. But I said, “No really. It’s like giving back in a way.” She looked me dead in the eye, a small smile playing around her lips, grateful that I’d caught on. “That’s it exactly,” she said.
At that moment we arrived at my station and I got up to leave. “Have a wonderful evening,” I told her. She smiled and returned the greeting, her happiness making her face beautiful. All the way home I thought of her and wondered if I’d ever see her again. Something happened there tonight, some kind of graced moment that I’ll remember for a long time. I decided to keep the bill in my coat pocket, ready to pay forward to someone else when the right moment presents itself.