I believe in generosity toward strangers. My husband and daughters own a canoe. They bought it together when the girls were still girls, in high school. It is a canoe with integrity, metal, a bit battered, but regal in a refuse to sink kind of way. We live on a busy street and the canoe hangs, upside-down, at the end of the house. Last summer a young man with two daughters stopped by. My husband was out mowing the yard. They talked for a long time while the kids watched from the car,. The men shook hands, and the young family drove away. When I asked my husband about it, he told me that he’d asked if the canoe was for sale. “You’re not selling it, are you?” I asked. He said he didn’t want to sell it but he’d loan it out for the day. “He’s coming by Saturday,” he told me. “They’ll take it for the day.” I asked if he’d gotten ID, what assurance he had that the canoe would be returned. “They’ll bring it back,” he said. That weekend, the family showed up. The two little girls were already wearing life vests, jumping up and down, with their parents maneuvering between them to load the canoe. A couple of days later the canoe was back where it belonged. I didn’t really think about it again until the following summer when two college-age men pulled up in a white pickup. They had just moved to the Northwest from Minnesota. I suspect the sight of the canoe made them homesick and they wanted to buy it. My husband told them they could borrow it. I didn’t ask about assurances or identification this time. Instead, I imagined the boys out on a strange lake for the first time in a borrowed boat, courtesy of a complete stranger. I like to think that it made the move away from home a little easier. I believe in generosity toward strangers. My daughter was still a young woman in college, broke, and working as an intern when she lost two hubcaps. Hubcaps were not in her budget and she drove around missing two for a long time. One afternoon, she stopped for coffee in a small neighboring town and she noticed a car, almost exactly like hers, also missing two hubcaps. She didn’t know where the owners were, but it occurred to her that she could put her hubcaps on their car and they’d have a full set. She managed to get them mounted and drove off without ever seeing the owners of the other car. I like to imagine the conversations and conjecture that must have followed when the owners of the car found all four hubcaps restored. Maybe they were having a bad day, maybe they’d had a fight or bounced a check, and then they come out of the store and discovered my daughter’s handiwork. I believe in generosity toward strangers. It is infectious. Next time I’m on the toll bridge, I’ll pay for the car behind me. I’ll plug a parking meter and risk the wrath of parking enforcement. I will act on my belief; I believe in generosity toward strangers.
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