Downtown Delray Beach is gentrifying. Poorer people are being pushed out of their homes, replaced by new businesses and unaffordable homes. As a result, no one lives on “The Ave” – the neighborhood’s central hub – unless you own a beach house. The area is filled with fancy restaurants, high-end fashion boutiques, and few affordable food spots.
The Ave is not kid friendly and my friends and I – and young people in general – don’t usually hang around there. But there are still some fun and affordable things you can do if you know where to go so, one day after school my friends and I decided to go downtown to explore.
We took the trolley, a free transportation system used to get around, and decided to stop by a popular donut chain to use a gift card that held less than three dollars. Since this trip was unplanned we didn’t have much money to spend, just the quarter, dimes, and nickels in our bags.
As we were strategizing on how to maximize use of our spare change and gift card, a group of white adults entered, and one them asked if she could borrow the chair at our table. I responded, “Of course, not a problem” with a polite smile.
To my surprise, the woman then offered “Get whatever you want ladies, I’ll pay.” I was just following the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” I hadn’t expected anything in return so I was surprised by her response, returning one act of kindness with another.
Since this woman and her friends were white and my friends and I are African American, I just expected her to make no human contact and ignore us. Just like any other interaction I’ve had in the community with strangers, especially when there is a difference in race. So, I asked her if this was a joke because situations like this are not at all common. On the other hand, this could just be her way of showing sympathy, but who wants to be a charity case.
I realized, however, that this was simply someone reaching out and demonstrating their kindness despite any racial and social barriers that may separate us. I had offered her kindness, regardless of her status or her color, and she reciprocated.
I was more than open to her genuine, kind approach. Receiving a ‘handout’ from a rich white woman would normally bring hesitation in any underprivileged black kid’s mind, but she had changed my conception of her by acknowledging me and reciprocating my basic act of kindness. This opened my eyes to the fact that kindness is contagious and that you reap what you sow in a good way, as well.
As we approached the register, we introduced ourselves. Her name was Pam. After she paid we thanked her, and she could obviously tell that we did not see this often, so she explained it’s just paying it forward. Then, we sat down and enjoyed our meal. We continued to talk about her act of kindness and when it was time for us to go, we gave Pam a hug and thanked her one last time. She then commented on how nice and respectful young ladies we were.
To this day, I’m grateful for her simple but gracious act. This experience proved that, just like love, kindness has no boundaries.