The Traveling $20

This past weekend I was in Tampa visiting Dan. On Sunday I woke up close to 9AM. Dan told me church was at 9:15AM so we were really pressed for time. I didn’t have time to get properly dressed so I wore a sweatshirt and leggings. I think I chose to gulp down a cup of coffee instead of comb my hair so at least I looked semi-awake. We pulled into the church parking lot around 9:20 AM and snuck in through a back door. Two stealthy stragglers hoping no one would notice that we were late.

As we settled into our pew, the pastor began to pray. But not just any prayer, the closing prayer.  One amen later and service was over. Suuhweeet! Yes, secretly I was happy that Dan had screwed up the service times because I was wanting breakfast. But before we could escape the sanctuary, an older lady stopped us and said, “You know, there is another service in 45 minutes you should stick around for.” I stifled a groan and thanked granny for letting us know. How could we leave after that? So we stuck around.

Second service started at 10AM, and I was really hurting for breakfast and more coffee at that point. Compared to the polished churchgoers surrounding me, I must have looked pretty pathetic. As the collection plate came around Dan and I realized that in our haste to get out of the house to make it to the 9:15AM service that didn’t exist we had forgotten to grab our wallets.

Improvising, Dan grabbed the offering envelope in the back of the pew and with my encouragement, wrote, “I O U” on it. I’ve had to do that more often than I’d like to admit, even one time at a child’s birthday party.*

Dan put our offering in the collection plate, and that was that.

Service ended, and as I began to leave the pew, the woman sitting on my left wished me a Merry Christmas. “Thank you and same to you” I replied before turning away. But then she grabbed my hand and slipped something into it. Sensing a potentially awkward situation, I didn’t look at it until we had left the church. Once outside, I looked in my hand and saw this:

Let it be known that I attend church pretty regularly and this has never happened to me in the past twenty three years. Sure, I didn’t have time to get ready before church this particular morning, but did I really look so disheveled and lost that a stranger felt compelled to reach out? Apparently, because she gave me this:

Inside the offering envelope was Mr. Jackson himself.

Naturally, I wondered if this random act of kindness directed at me was related to the 20 or 26 Acts of Kindness movement. Regardless of the reasoning behind this stranger giving me money, I was moved. Since we had already left the church I did not get a chance to thank Leila, or put the money in the collection plate where I should have put it. Instead, we used the money to buy breakfast since I was starving and we didn’t have our wallets.

JOKING! I still have the $20 in my possession, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. If you have any bright and benevolent ideas, please let me know.

Lastly, remember that like Santa, Smokey the Bear is not real and that ONLY YOU can perform random acts of kindess. Keep ’em coming kids!

Smokey says whatever he wants to because he’s Smokey.


*True story. Some kid in the Hamptons is still waiting for a gift and probably withholding future party invitations until it is received. Not that I mind all that much because I’m too big for backyard bouncy castle rentals.

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