Lesson learned; lesson passed on

-A A +A
By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor


Eleven years ago, when I first came to Florida, I worked for a company that did not offer health insurance of any kind.

And that was OK. I was young, healthy and had not been to a doctor except for the annual PAP smear for years.

But one day I knew something was wrong, horribly wrong, when my throat hurt so badly I couldn't swallow my beloved coffee. It wasn't sore. It hurt and it seemed to be closing. I felt fine otherwise. This went on for a few days, then the pain started. My entire head hurt – from the base of the throat to the  top of my curly locks.

At dinner that evening with a group I then belonged to – the Wednesday Wackos – everyone noticed I wasn't attempting the quesadilla on my plate or even sipping my tea. I couldn't. 

I told the rather large group that my self diagnosis was I had a bad molar and with no dental insurance, I had to self treat and pray the pain abated.

After dinner, one of our Wackos invited me over to her house for further conversation. 

We had been seated in her beautiful living room about 15 minutes when she excused herself from the room.

When she returned, she walked over to me and offered me a check.

I looked at her and didn't say a word.

"I want you to have this," she said. "Go see a dentist."

As I started to protest, she went on.

"I am single," she said. "I have a home, a car, food, anything I could possibly want. The Lord has blessed me and now I want to bless you. Take the check. Please."

And so I did. I couldn't believe my eyes – it was for $1,000. I started to protest again, but she cut my off. "I need to do this," she said. "Don't deny me my blessing."

So I accepted it, graciously. 

Turned out I had a bad abscess and the dentist said it could have easily caused me to have a heart attack had I not sought help. I received antibiotics and strong pain meds and a week later I was in Gainesville at an endodontist having a root canal.

The cost of my meds and the procedure? $990.

Now, the rest of the story. Friends sometimes borrow money from friends and if they're real friends, they pay it back in a timely manner.

I went home that afternoon and emailed my benefactor, thanking her again and telling her what had happened in the last week.

I ended the email with, "I'll pay you back over the next three months."

Her reply was "No, you will not pay it back. You did not ask for it. It was a gift." 

She went on to say that people pass through our lives for a season, a reason or a lifetime and we had come together in an innocous weekly supper club for a reason – for her to be able to get me to a dentist. Instead of paying her back, she said, I should look for ways to pay it forward.

You see, we weren't friends. We were barely acquaintances. She was a work associate of someone else in the supper club. I had met her twice, maybe three times before that night, and we hadn't really talked a lot.

It wasn't long after that, she was transferred to a new job on the East Coast and then I heard she was transferred to somewhere in Texas. I never heard from her again, and the mutual friend of ours also lost contact.

It's been over 10 years since that happened, and I've never forgotten this wonderful person and how she truly was an angel in disguise.

I've spent the last 10 years trying to pay it forward, too. 

I've paid electric bills for a single mom. I've bought fast food for the people behind me. I've given money to people I barely know because they needed it. I've sent flowers and gifts to people anonymously because I know they've struggled. I've paid for the elderly people's purchases in stores.

I've never given $1,000 to an almost-stranger but I still look every day for opportunities to touch someone else's life the way she touched mine.

It's trendy to perform those random act of kindnesses, but if you live it every day of your life, you reap the blessings as much as the recipients do.

Try it and see. And sometimes you get doubly blessed when the reason someone passes through your life turns into a lifetime of learning and sharing.



If someone has touched you with a random act of kindess, we want to hear about it. Email your story to Carolyn Ten Broeck at editor@willistonpioneer.com.