“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson
Just after my mother’s colon cancer surgery, my father was laid off from work.
I was sixteen years old and felt silently helpless and terrified. My mom had been attending church but, on this certain day, she didn’t feel well enough to attend. After this particular church service, an exceedingly thin, frail, elderly woman approached me. She requested if I would please accompany her on an errand.
I felt too afraid of being disrespectful of the elderly, so shyly I sat next to her in her car as she drove to a grocery store. Her name was Georgie.
I began pushing Georgie’s grocery cart down the first aisle. It was then that she paused, pointed to an item, and asked, “Do you have this in your house?”
I started to cry, realizing the true purpose of her “errand.”
She continued, “Now, tell me yes or no.”
I answered, “no.” She placed the item in the cart. She continued down every single aisle of the supermarket, pointing to every inconceivably generous object. I couldn’t contain my tears of vulnerability in public nor of her profound generosity to an utter stranger’s family. Someone must have told her about our family’s dire situation.
I stammered, “I haven’t any money or a job. My father got laid off from work. My mother has cancer.”
She said, “Someday you’re going to meet someone in a similar situation and do the same thing for them and that’s how you’ll pay me back.”
She never accepted personal compensation.
Beloved Georgie has long since passed away.
Yet since then, I have secretly tried to emulate Georgie in the hidden way that she conducted “errands.” To strangers. They usually initially stammer to decline, until I begin to tell them my story about Georgie. Somehow Georgie gives them permission to safely receive.
I repeat to them what Georgie said to me. In addition, I say, “This is a gift from Georgie.” They cry and we hug; and thus beloved Georgie lives on into eternity in unimaginably grateful hearts.