Monday, December 17, 2007

So be good, for goodness sake...

There's a limit -- I discovered after 6 straight hours on the couch in my parents' house where I was visiting last Sunday -- to just how lazy one man can be.

Desperate for something that could credibly pass as "productive," I decided to do a little Christmas shopping at the mall near my childhood home, so I headed out the door on foot. About halfway there, a rather portly, older man shoveling his drive caught my attention.

"Hey," he wheezed in my general direction. "Want to make a little money?"

Shoveling driveways for $10 apiece through the neighbourhood was a business I thought I'd left behind when I was about 16, but I could see the guy was struggling, so I picked up a shovel. I told him he didn't need to pay me anything, that I was happy to help him do it for free, but he protested: "If you're not going to let me pay you, you can go on your way right now because I'm having none of that," he said, reaching for the shovel. I'd welcome anything he felt was appropriate, I told him with a shrug, and set to work on the unplowed lower half.

We worked in tandem -- I did the heavy lifting, so to speak, leaving him to clean up whatever I missed along the edges, once he'd gotten his breath back. We made small talk to pass the time; he moved onto the street a few years after my parents did. (The fact that we'd never crossed paths before made me feel somehow awkward, I don't know why.) Turns out, he has a son about my age I used to play road hockey with very occasionally.

One sweaty half-hour later, I was finished. He held out a tentative twenty-dollar bill, which I sheepishly grabbed once I saw the look of concern on his face. I thanked him for his company, and continued on my way.

It wasn't until I rounded the corner that a sudden pang of guilt hit me. Shouldn't I have been a little more insistent about not being paid? I'm sure he would have appreciated the good turn. Leafing through my wallet, I found the guilty $20, and wondered how to rectify the situation. My head was halfway through a plan to put the bill in his mailbox with an anonymous Merry Christmas note attached when I spied a better alternative. Rolling the bill up, I slipped it into the Salvation Army box to the right of the mall's entrance doors. The woman watching it smiled and thanked me for my donation. It made me feel warm inside -- which was great, considering the chilly job I'd just finished.

All in all, it was just the kind of return on investment I was looking for.

1 comment:

Krupo said...

No accountants have pounced to hector you about getting a tax receipt? ;)