When I was 8 years old my Mom and I were poor, but regardless happy for the most part.
On occasion she would take me to the Superstore and we would buy Black Cherry cans of pop from the machine (the 50cent no name brand; sometimes grapefruit).
This was our treat together, which was particularly special on hot days.
Once in the check out on one of those days I sat reading an Archie comic whilst I waited for her; she finished and we started to walk away-
-Abruptly an older man; called out to us.
“Little Miss, you forgot your book”
I shied away, growing up where I did I knew not to take any stranger talking to me lightly; I tightened the grip on my Moms hand.
“No I didn’t, I was just reading it while I waited; it’s not mine.”
The old man approached me and said with a kind smile; he looked at me in a way I wish my own Grandfather or even Father would have looked at me – if even just once.
“It’s yours now”
He handed me the book, bowed and walked away; I all the while in my shock could barely muster to vocalize the gratitude I felt
“t-thank you” is all I could say; with a giant glassed eyed grin. It’s all believe he needed to hear, If anything at all
I don’t remember if it was a double digest, a betty and veronica or a Pals ‘n Gals, I don’t remember what quirky trouble the Riverdale gang got in to or what wholesome route led them back to their semi-charmed lives-
-Nearly 20 years later what I do remember is his smile, his generosity and kind heart; and to this day those memories inspire me. For all I know this man has passed on -he was rather aged- unbeknownst that the little girl he gifted that book to was affected so profoundly; that within that small deed a seed was planted and I continued to understand the depth of actions and the power of selfless intent.
For all he knew I was a spoiled brat, one that wouldn’t give a shit about a comic or kindness; that I would throw it on my spoiled pile of now bored americanized apple pie literature and forget that he ever existed or where it came from….
….but I wasn’t.
I was observant, grateful, sympathetic and kind; and continued to be as such because of small instances like this man, because of trips to get Cherry Pop with my Mom, because given so much less then my peers; I chose to not revel in green tinted self pity but to see the salience of the little things in life; to learn, to be inspirited and let their recollection warm me from the inside when times were less than savoury.
So thank you my mysterious old companion in compassion; thank you for your gift …..and the comic too.