Have you ever been so struck by the kindness of a stranger that it stayed with you long after the interaction? For the past two weeks I had been driving with a low tire, soon to be flat, and was putting off doing anything about it. Finally, while at work, one of my coworkers noticed that my front tire was dangerously low. I could deny the truth no longer, I had to put air in my tires and I had no idea how to do it. I am not the most mechanically inclined person, never the less I decided to embark on my flat tire journey.
At the gas station, I found myself staring at the VAC machine with an apparently confused look on my face. Just as I finished feeding coins into the machine, a nice older gentleman walking out of the gas station approached me. And that’s when it happened; this stranger with a red Gatorade bottle in his hand asked me if he could help me put air in the tires. Stunned and thankful I said yes, and had a wonderful conversation as he filled up my front tire. Once he was done, I thanked him; he wished me a blessed day and walked across the street, leaving me with a grateful heart and the poignant question of why? Why would this man want to help having no prior interaction or connection to me at all?
Maybe the question was the whole point of my interaction. The man with the red Gatorade bottle displayed a kindness and altruism that caused me to start the conversation with others and myself about why people give. Why we give service, time, money, energy, and effort into the goodwill of others expecting nothing in return. For the longest time I defined philanthropy as volunteering at a soup kitchen, delivering presents to kids in the hospital or donating money to a worthy cause. My perception completely changed after that day at the gas station. It struck me that philanthropy is truly defined by the etymology of the word, the love of humanity. Philanthropy can be as small as someone paying for your meal when you didn’t have enough money, helping someone walk across the street, or even helping a confused young woman pump air in her tires. Philanthropy is about the love of humanity and promoting its well being no matter the scale.
Look for Ashley's blog again next month!