Forgive it Forward: Follow Those Footprints
Sometimes it helps to follow in someone’s footsteps – even if only for a short while. For that reason, Ray and I have started this series; a virtual footprint forum for muses with stories, ideas and tips that we think worth sharing. We hope your ‘walk’ with them makes your day a little lighter and brighter –and that you leave with something that inspires you to forgive it forward, backward, upward and downward!
In this post, we invite you to follow Suzanne’s footprints as she shares a magical story about how far a $20 bill will travel!
GUEST MUSINGS BY: Suzanne Smith, Travel Consultant
Recently, my 14-year-old daughter and I went on a road trip. Mother-Daughter bonding time that I felt was needed. Even though there are only the two of us in this house, we spend a lot of our time living separate lives. What better way to force us to talk about more than “pick up your clothes” and “take me to the Mall” than a thousand mile road trip in the middle of summer during a 95+ heat wave!
We started our journey from Charlotte, NC to Baltimore, MD midday on a Thursday. I didn’t want to push my 13-year-old car too hard so we stopped at just about every rest area between Charlotte and our first night’s stop in Fredericksburg, VA. My daughter was irritated. “Do we need to stop at every rest area? You have already pe’ed twice!!” (Hey, I am old, what can I say? We kept stopping.) Six hours into the drive and fifteen miles from our exit I saw another rest area.
“No way”… “Yes way”… We pulled in.
After “resting” and emptying the “travel” trash, I started to get into the car and looked down. A nice crisp $20 bill was there on the pavement. I looked around. No one in sight. I went to the minivan next to me and peered in the windows. No one in the van. I hesitated. Should I pick it up? I knew it wasn’t mine. I looked around again; still no one to ask. Feeling guilty, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I didn’t steal it but felt like I had as I joked with my daughter, “see, if we hadn’t stopped we wouldn’t have made $20” and so far our trip was “free”… but in the back of my mind I still felt funny with someone else’s $20 bill in my pocket.
We checked into our Fredericksburg hotel, settled in for the night and left the next day for Baltimore. As a travel agent, I attend a lot of sales seminars and travel shows and, earlier this year, I had won 2 free nights at the Intercontinental Baltimore Harbor so that was why we were going to Baltimore. Cruise lines are starting to sail out of Baltimore year round and I had never been there. We arrived in Baltimore with plenty of time to start sightseeing – but believe it or not that $20 was weighing on my mind. I still felt bad. I didn’t really need that $20 and kept thinking that maybe I should have left it there in the rest area for someone else to take.
The next morning, we hit the streets again and ended the day wandering around the city trying to find Edgar Allan Poe’s grave (my daughter loves him). The streets are confusing downtown, where he’s buried, with all sorts of one-ways, twists and turns. And finding parking on a Saturday night that the Orioles played was even tougher. We finally parked a couple blocks away, in front of a hospital, and walked to the cemetery. At the entrance was the marker for Poe’s grave – with flowers and a bottle of whiskey adorning it. We were “clicking away” when I looked up from the camera and saw a man walking down the street. He noticed that I saw him and stopped – then approached us. He didn’t look too scary. He asked if I was familiar with the area and I told him that we were just visiting. He then went on to tell me his story.
“I live in Battle Creek, MI” he started out … He was on his way to NY and had a long layover in Baltimore so he thought that he would see the city before he went on to NY. He wandered into the wrong area and was beaten up so badly that he had to be hospitalized. (I started to think that his story sounded like the ones email hackers use to try to get people to wire money by saying you are hurt and stranded in a foreign city.) He proceeded to show me his hospital wristband and discharge papers. He had just been released and wanted to get on a Greyhound to NYC that was leaving in 20 minutes but he was $18.30 short of the fare. Shoving his papers towards me and showing me his wristband, he said he was embarrassed – that he had never had to ask for money before. He was very upset so I just stopped him and asked, “What do you want from me? Do you want me to give you money to get on the bus?” He said if I could spare anything that he would send me the money when he got where he was going. I asked him, “Would $20 be good?” He said yes. I gave him the $20 and told him that he didn’t need to send anything back to me – and that I was sure a fellow Michigander standing in front of Poe’s grave would not be lying to me.
He took the $20 – thanking and blessing us – and left. I told my daughter, who had been standing next to me listening to everything, that regardless of whether he needed that $20 for the bus or for “whatever,” he seemed to really need it and that I was glad that we could help him out.
We were finishing up with the pictures when a police car pulled up and a female officer stepped out. I thought “oh, oh”… but she was there to lock up the cemetery due to the area not being safe at night. She then told us that where we were standing was just a monument to Poe and that his actual grave was in the back of the cemetery and she would be more than happy to show us. She told us that she was supposed to lock up immediately but would wait until we had a chance to go through all the graves and take our pictures. She was very nice, even asked where we were parked in case we needed a ride to the car.
Sometimes the Universe works in mysterious ways, don’t you think? That $20 needed to get from that rest area outside of Fredericksburg to that man in Baltimore. I didn’t need the money and it never felt like mine. But I do like to help out others. I had won the 2 free nights. We saw him the second day. We parked near the hospital he had just gotten out of. My daughter loves Poe. And a nice policewoman, who was more than happy to give us a private tour of the graveyard, rewarded us for our good deed.
We are back to our old routine of “pick up your clothes” and “take me to the Mall” but we both remember the good feeling that we got helping that man from Battle Creek that needed $20. It will be one of those memories we can fall back on the rest of our lives.
Suzanne loves travel, people and parties and has brilliantly embraced all three through her company, Champagne Vacations. In addition to being spotted near tombstones, Suzanne is occasionally found researching hotels, attractions and restaurants around the world so she can make personal recommendations to her clients. She is currently surviving a teenage daughter and a four-legged crew of 4 rescue kitties and 1 step-dog. She has assisted as a hospice volunteer and says she will give you the shirt off her back if you need it as long as “I am wearing a bra.” (We can personally attest to both her generous spirit and wacky sense of humor!)
We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”- Hilaire Belloc
Did you miss the Forgive it Forward video? Click here to see the 3-minute video!
Curious how it ALL started? CLICK HERE to see the 2-minute video book trailer that started it all!
Did this make your day a little brighter? (Then “LIKE” this or SHARE this!) And feel free to comment or share a story of your own!
©2010 Enlightened Ink – If you are inspired to share or quote from this article please share us with it. Together we grow.