A somewhat dramatic kindness was extended to me just yesterday. My wife and I labored to get a monstrous air conditioner onto a hand truck and out of our basement and set it on the curb with a sign reading, “free-works great!” As I explained to the first man who stopped by to check it out, it’s just too heavy for my wife and I to heft up into a window anymore, and especially for me with my chronic back pain issues.
a good day to find an air conditioner
The second man who stopped had already backed his hatch-back up within inches of the rare find when I noticed him standing beside the air conditioner and scratching his head. As I walked over to greet him I noticed that he only had one arm and he was clearly trying to figure out how to get the thing up and into the back of his car, and hoping, I supposed, for someone to come along and help him.
I guessed that the man, whose name was Victor, was about ten years younger than me. He was wiry, soft-spoken and determined to get that large heavy unit home and installed in his living room on what was expected to be a very humid and hot summer day. When I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be lifting heavy things like this and it was the main reason we were giving it away, Victor was clearly disappointed, because, as he told me, it would be nighttime before he could return with his son to pick the thing up. He feared, and I think that he was correct, that the air conditioner would surely be gone if he had to return.
When I told Victor that I could, when necessary, lift things in place but not walk with heavy objects at all, I could tell that he was crafting a plan in his head. It was clear that this was a man who was accustomed to challenges like this regardless of having just one hand and one arm to tackle a task.
I felt like a jerk
Rightly or wrongly, I felt like a jerk. Here I am, all limbs intact, and I can’t even help this guy? If he leaves and returns later, I will either have to get the unit off of the curb and hold it for him until he returns, which would be double the work for me and my wife, or, put a “sold” sign on the air conditioner and hope that someone else wouldn’t come along and take it anyway, especially on such a hot day.
“Wait,” I said. “I have an idea. I can lift up one end and get it to here,” while pointing at the tip of his bumper. Victor’s face lit up with renewed hopes of getting his find home and installed in his window. Then he paused, his hand on his waist saying, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, though. Maybe you shouldn’t?”
“I should be fine if I just lift it to here,” I said, determined that I wasn’t going to disappoint my new friend at this point in the process.
One, two, three…
“Okay then,” Victor said. “On three…” I thought that with only one arm, Victor’s lifting power would be less regardless of his rugged physical appearance, so I braced myself for an even heavier lift, just in case. But I was wrong. Very wrong. The moment we both started to lift, Victor grabbed “his half” of the unit halfway to my end and came up with his knee to where his other hand might go if he had one. He had a third of his body, twisting on one leg, under the thing by the time we reached the tip of his trunk. In fact we went right up and over the bumper itself! Victor nudged the unit safely into place and with sweat dripping down the sides of his face, he closed the hatch of his car, turned and shook my hand, saying, “We did it!”
A moment of curbside kindness
In truth there was barely a ‘we’ in the whole operation. Victor, obviously determined to spare me an injury, had a plan all along. By his adroit maneuvering, he had in effect given me far more, an invisible gift and a clear act of kindness. As Victor drove away I thought that, in this situation, it was obvious to me which one of us had the greater limitation.
Text by Kevin Lee
Note: This story was inspired by the Daily Question on July 16, 2016 at Gratefulness.org that asked, “what kindnesses have I experienced.”