Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pay It Forward: A Contrast

Hello, Beatdowners! Sorry for the lag of activity on my page here, but a ton has been going on - of which, a blog will be posted in the coming weeks.

I digress...

"Pay It Forward" is a term that I hear a lot nowadays. On the news, on Facebook (I recall seeing a group page "Pay It Forward Day", or something like that), in Church...and it got me thinking, especially after this morning's Church service. The Gospel was the passage in which Jesus laid down the "Love one another, as I have loved you" commandment - The Golden Rule, so to speak. Don't worry, this isn't a religious blog...but the passage got me thinking about 2 stories in the news recently that are (A) a horrible reminder of what we have become as people, and (B) a sign of hope that there are still good people out there.

Story #1
The New York Post received footage from a Closed Circuit TV camera that showed how heartless we have become as a people.

On April 18th, 2010, a woman was walking on a street in the Jamaica area of Queens in New was earlier, 5:40am according to the CCTV time stamp. The woman was being followed by a man who had bad intentions...he came up behind her quickly, attempting to mug her. IT was then a "good Samaritan", Hugo Tale-Yax, entered the fray to help the woman and fend off the attacker. Hugo was 31, Guatemalan, and homeless. In New York City. Not the greatest of situations to be in, to say the least. But rather than being bitter, angry with the world for his current lot in life, he swooped in to save the day. While he did prevent the attacker from harming the woman, Hugo paid the ultimate price. He was stabbed several times in the chest. The CCTV feed showed the attacker flee in one direction, while the woman ran away in the other. Hugo tried to chase after the assailant, but the video shows him stagger and collapse to the ground.

Here is where the worst of us comes out. He laid on the sidewalk for almost 2 hours, face down, in a pool of his own blood, and no one did anything to help. The CCTV video shows at least 25 people pass this mortally wounded man on a sidewalk and do nothing. People walk by, look down, and keep walking as if nothing is wrong. Two men are seen coming out of a close by building, standing near the dying man, and do not call for help...instead, one of the men is seen taking a picture of him with his cell phone. Another person does finally stop...they lift Tale-Yax's head and shake him...they lift his arm up, apparently in an effort to see if he is alive. Then the person simply walks away.

Finally, at 7:23am, someone calls 9-1-1. By the time emergency crews arrive, Hugo Tale-Yax is dead.

Story #2
On April 28th, the Washington Capitals - the #1 seed in their conference playoffs - got bounced in Game 7 of their series with the #8 seeded Montreal Canadians. Ouch. This was supposed to be the Caps year to win the Stanley Cup! !@#$%!!! From what I heard from several friends who were at the game (at the Verizon Center in DC), the fans were CRUSHED. Dejected. Sick. And IMO, deservedly so.

Anyhow, two of those fans were Mary Ann Wangemann and her 14-year old daughter, Lorraine. After the 2-1 defeat, they sadly got into their car to head back to their home in Virginia. File under "Just When You Think It Can't Get Worse" - as they are crossing the Roosevelt Bridge, they hit a MASSIVE pothole and get a flat. Good times, for sure.

Mary Ann calls AAA, who says they don't know how long it's going to be before the can get there to help since they were experiencing a large volume of calls...figures. They two got out of their car and waited on the side of the road...I'm sure it had to be rather intimidating for them.

They see an SUV slow down and pull off the road ahead of them. Out steps Brooks Laich, the Capitals Left Wing, who had scored the only goal for Washington in their loss that night. He was decked out in his post-game suit, and obviously feeling incredibly low due to his team being ousted from the NHL Playoffs WAY sooner than anyone thought possible. Mary Ann and Lorraine - being huge Caps fans - recognized him immediately.

Laich asked if he could help them. Mary Ann explained that AAA had been called and was on their way, but asked if he wouldn't mind waiting with them until they got there. Laich had another idea - he asked if they had a spare...they he took off his suit coat, got down on his hands and knees, and changed the tire.

During the 40-minute ordeal of changing the tire, Laich and Mary Ann talked. Laich apologized for his team's loss. Mary Ann commented on how nice all of the Caps players seemed to be off the ice, to which Laich replied, "We're just people, too".

Mary Ann said she had no idea how she could possibly thank him...his response?

"I'm sure you will do something nice for someone in the future".

With that, he hugged the two fans, got back into his SUV, and went on his way. But what a message he left - PAY IT FORWARD.

Two contrasts - polar opposites. The very worst of people seen as a man lay dying in a pool of his own blood after saving a woman from a would-be mugger, and the very best of people being seen in a NHL hockey player who had just been dealt probably the biggest defeat in his career.

If someone who passed by Hugo had simply picked up their cell phone (NOT to take his picture, but to call 9-1-1), perhaps he'd still be alive, and able to receive his recognition as being a HERO. Perhaps he'd have a chance to be on the receiving end of someone paying it forward.

My Story

Now a personal tale of paying it dad passed away 5 years ago. Unbelievable it has been that long. I miss him every day. He was my hero. When my brothers and I were cleaning up our folks home before it being sold (our mom passed away 70 days before dad did), we were dividing up who was going to take what. My dad kept a single One Dollar bill in his wallet - he called it his "Get-Away" money. I wanted that dollar. Not sure why it meant so much to me, but I had to have it. It was crisp, and folded perfectly to fit into a small slot that most wallets have hidden in them somewhere. I had no intentions of ever parting with the dollar. It went into my wallet. One night I was down in Baltimore's Power Plant Live! area of bars (I think seeing my brother's 80's cover band - Voodoo Economics)...I was walking back to the garage above the now-defunct Baja Beach Club and I saw a homeless man - he didn't have a sign asking for anything...he had a ragged cup, a tattered blanket, one shoe, ratty clothes, and he smelled of urine, vomit, and God knows what else. Our eyes met and he shook his cup, which had a few coins in it. I knew I didn't have any cash on me - I never do - I always use my debit card. Then I remembered I had $1. It was cold out. I asked him what his name was. I don't recall - I think he said Joseph. I asked him to stand up for a second. He did...I could tell he was uneasy...probably a victim of some sort of beating for asking for change in the past. I told him I had $1. I told him the dollar belonged to my father, who had died a few months prior. I told him he could have it as long as he used it to get something hot to eat or a cup of coffee at the McDonald's around the corner. He stood in front of me slackjawed. He thanked me over and over...he reached his hand out for me to shake it. I declined, and gave him a hug instead. He laughed pretty hard, which made me feel good. He said, "God Bless You, sir!" and started heading around the corner to McD's. I pulled my car out of the garage and drove through the little court where the clubs and McD's are - and their was my homeless dude, sitting on the water fountain, drinking a cup of McD's coffee.

It upsets me from time-to-time that I don't have that dollar anymore. But I know it went to something good. Something better than a memory. The dollar paid it forward.

That's all I got today. Do something good for someone today, tomorrow, sometime this week.

Pay It Forward.

Until next time..."Be excellent to one another...and PARTY ON, DUDE!".

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