I was doctoring out in Gresham today, as I am most Wednesday mornings. I finished up late and it was almost 2:00 by the time I got back to Portland. I was famished and all I could think about was getting something to eat. I parked and walked over to the Burgerville just down the block from the office. As I was getting ready to pay, the cashier said, “That’ll be $5.29… Unless you want the senior discount.” Heck, yeah, I want it!! Turns out, at our local burger chain here in Oregon you can get a 10% senior discount starting at age 50! I had no idea. I was so tickled with saving 52¢ that I almost forgot I had $100 to give away.
I was heading back to the office with my sandwich when I saw two youngish white guys on the corner standing chest to chest and yelling at each other. One of them had apparently bumped into the other guy by accident. They looked so utterly ridiculous that, at first, I thought they were fooling around. Chins raised and lips curled, they were up on their toes and inching ever closer with their puffed-out chests. I saw a small group of people from work that I recognized. They had been taking a cigarette break across the street and now were watching the scene unfold.
Suddenly a mildly scruffy-looking middle-aged African American man walked up to the two guys and wedged himself between them. We all watched, mesmerized. Somehow he pushed them apart, holding each one at arm’s length. “Hey!” he said, “Look up there!” He pointed to the blue sky. “It’s a beautiful day! It’s much too nice to be fighting! You guys need to just walk away.”
Amazingly, they did. One of the two guys was still muttering and cursing but the tension was gone and they took off in opposite directions. The scruffy guy came across the street to where the small group was standing, and I got there about that same time. “Dang”, said one of my co-workers. “I was hoping to see a fight!” “Oh, no”, said the peacemaker. “You don’t want that! You carry that negativity around with you all day! Why would you want to ruin a beautiful day like this?”
I really liked this guy and watched as he talked with her for a few minutes. When he started to walk away, I stepped up next to him and matched his stride. After we were out of earshot of the others I thanked him for stepping in and sparing all of us an uglier scene. He shrugged. “We shouldn’t fight, that’s all. No need to be fighting. We just need to get along or move on”.
I introduced myself and he said his name was Tony. Then I told him about honoring my mom and that I had something I wanted to give him. He laughed. “Ha! Is it a piece of advice?” “No, here.” I put the bill in his hand. “What?! Seriously? No! You can’t give me this! I won’t take it, even if I do kinda need it.” I told him he could do whatever he wanted with it and he admitted that he really did need about $50.
Tony was a real talker, and kept up a pretty steady flow about his family and his life philosophy. We realized we were the same age and he told me about his two sisters and his fiancee, all of whom had died within a single year. Every so often he would interrupt himself and burst out with something like, “No! Why are you doing this?! Your mama wouldn’t want you just giving money away!” and “I thought you were gonna ask me out! I was trying to think what I was gonna say!”. Then he said, “This is the best thing that ever happened to me! In my life! No strings attached! Just giving away money!”
I loved that guy. He was brave and gentle and radiated intelligence and earnestness. I really hope he keeps the money for himself, but I have the feeling he’s going to share.