One cold and windy December evening when my daughter was one year old, we set out for a drive to pick up our favorite dinner… PIZZA! Bundled up in her purple winter coat, purple gloves, and purple hat, (purple was her favorite color well into her double digits), I buckled her up snugly into her car seat. When we got to the Pizza Parlor, I leapt out of the car, shut my door, and ran quickly over to the passenger door to whisk her up. I pulled on the handle. It was locked. Let me just say that there were many questions racing through my mind in that second, one of which was, “where are my keys?” I looked through the window and there they were, dangling tauntingly. I looked at my beautiful daughter, who was looking back up at me with her chubby little arms outstretched, and felt hopeless.
I stood next to her peering through the window and tried to motion to her to unlock the door. It was a simple push of a button for an adult but for a one year old it was all but impossible. We both stared at each other with tears in our eyes and then all of a sudden my daughter started screaming. As people passed us on their way into the Pizza Parlor they shook their heads in dismay and hurried inside.
Out of nowhere, an older man appeared and asked if I needed help. “Yes. Please! I have somehow locked my daughter in the car.” I sobbed. He smiled and said he had done a similar thing with his young son years ago, and knew just what to do. He went to his car, came back with a wire clothes hanger and slipped it through the pane of glass and the inside of the car door. All the while speaking quietly to my daughter. Within seconds she was smiling and cooing, and before we knew it, we heard that long awaited click and cheered! I opened the door, unbuckled my daughter and hugged her tight. She was safe in my arms! I thanked the older man and he said, “Pass it on”. He got back into his truck, waved goodbye and drove away.
Through the years, I have had many opportunities to pass it on and I always jump at the chance to do so. Sometimes I pass it on anonymously, and sometimes in person. I always feel so good in myself when I do this, and each time this feeling surprises and delights me. There is no judgment and no agenda when I am passing it on. The opportunity simply shows up in my life and I act appropriately. Whether it is a special note of kindness left on a neighbor’s door, paying a bridge toll for the person in back of me, or volunteering at my local food pantry. Sometimes it is a gentle smile or a cheerful hello to someone I pass by on the street. I usually start whistling afterwards.
Our children learn by watching us, emulating us, and wanting to be like us. When they join us in volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating a coat during the snowy months of winter, or showing random acts of kindness, they form a foundation of values and habits to carry on long after we are gone.
I’ll never forget the older man who was our hero that cold and windy December evening.
The Pizza Parlor has long since closed down, but, our Pizza Parlor Angel and his valuable lesson will live on, forever, in our hearts.