It was nine degrees today as I was driving to work. I was running late and drove a bit faster than usual through the local streets. As I crossed an intersection, I noticed a young girl standing by a bus stop. She was hunched over, clutching a notebook and pencil. Under her light jacket, she wore a dress with long pants underneath, as mothers used to dress their kids when I was a child. She looked painfully cold and I noticed that she wore no gloves.
In a split second, I decided to turn my car around and drive back. I knew that I had to do something to help that girl. I pulled into a bank parking lot and headed back in the other direction. I stopped the car and got out, running up to the girl, who now appeared to be 12 or 13. Her face reflected the discomfort she felt from the frigid temperature. She was attempting to tuck her cold hands under her arms for some warmth. With the notebook and pen she was carrying, she couldn't put her hands in a pocket.
I peeled off my warm leather gloves with Thinsulate lining and handed them to her, taking the notebook and pencil from her hands so that she could put them on. Big brown eyes looked up at me with such sheer gratitude that she didn't need to say a word. I reached over and tied the little scarf she was wearing around her neck and pulled the hood up on the jacket so that it covered her head.
"Take care," I said, holding her by the arms and looking into her eyes.
"Thank you," she said with tears welling up in her eyes.
I got into my car and headed off to work feeling good about what I had done. It didn't matter that I would be late for work. What mattered was that a young girl had warmer hands and wasn't at risk for frostbite.
I'm not writing about this to brag about what I did. I'm writing about it because we all will have hundreds of unexpected opportunities to give during our lives. When I saw that young girl with no gloves, my mind was thinking about work and what I needed to do when I arrived. I could have driven on to work, but in one moment the awareness of that girl's obvious discomfort cut through everything else and I knew that I had to go back. I could not go on to work knowing that this girl was waiting for a bus with hands that were exposed to dangerously cold temperatures.
It is these kinds of unexpected opportunities to give of ourselves that present themselves and require a quick response. We have to be ready to go with our hearts and be in the moment. It can be easy to look the other way and think someone else will stop and help.
In this instance, I believe that it must have been reassuring to this young girl that there are strangers that are willing to help. And for me, I realized that regardless of how cold my hands might be without my gloves, my heart felt warm and good about what I had done.