I gave away some more children’s books today and to a previous recipient in this project, so in itself today’s Giveaway wasn’t that original or exciting. However, the circumstances around the Giveaway made it feel part of a larger moment of kindness and generosity that confirmed my fundamental belief in the goodness of people.
Theo and I met up with my sister, Roshan and her daughter Kaia at our friend Krista’s Red Dragon Café. I wrote about Krista on February 15, when I gave her a chair for the café. Today, I selected some illustrated kids’ books from the pile I’d purged from Theo’s bookshelves to take to the café and leave in the kids’ cave-like area that Krista has created behind one of the couches. She seemed delighted to get more books, though it became clear as all of our children settled in to their spots in the café that they may not notice the books if there are small, shiny screens anywhere close by.
In her typically generous manner, Krista brought out a pot of tea for us and all sorts of scrumptious cakes and cookies, which I gobbled down shamelessly in the hope of putting back some of the weight that I’ve lost recently. Sipping on tea, we caught up with Krista and her husband Nick on all our various illnesses and family news as the kids settled in their various nooks with their gadgets. Suddenly I heard someone shouting out, “If anyone has a red car out front, they’re about to get towed!” I jumped up and starting pushing my way to the front of the café, just in time to see a parking enforcement agent wielding his gadget in the direction of my red car. I ran up to him and asked what I’d done wrong and he pointed to the red, anti-gridlock “no parking after 4pm sign” above the green “2-hour parking” sign that I’d actually paid attention to. It was 4:12pm. I explained that I was sorry I’d missed the sign and asked him if he’d already started writing my ticket, fully expecting him to say “yes” and hand me one of those depressing red and white envelopes. But, instead he said, “That’s ok. Go on. Move your car, quick.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Before he could change his mind, I blurted out a hasty “thank you,” jumped in my car and moved it to a parking meter around the corner, my mouth hanging open in shock all the way.
When I got back to the café, the man from the shop two doors down who had come into the Red Dragon to warn me about my car explained that the parking officer had done that for other customers too. Another man, dressed in a bright turquoise Statue of Liberty costume and waving a foam “Help with Your Taxes” sign for the Tax Office next door, ran up to me grinning and said, “I’m so glad you didn’t get a ticket.” I returned to our table in the café feeling stunned at the support and kindness I’d just received from total strangers. I announced my good fortune to everyone and we all marveled at the rare generosity of the parking officer. Then, as we got ready to pay for our feast and leave, Krista refused to accept our money, leaving Roshan and me feeling overwhelmed by their generosity now. I know that I’ll go back to the Red Dragon Café again, no doubt armed with something else to give its wonderful, huge-hearted owners, and probably something special for a very compassionate man in a tan colored uniform.