I was reading a post at The Average American yesterday about a gentleman that bought lunch for some servicemen on a flight and I was reminded of an incident we had in the emergency room I work in. The blog by American is incredible by the way and all readers are strongly encouraged to drop by and read it.
Anyways, this incident happened a couple of years ago. We have a bin that we put our pop bottles and cans in. One of the nurses takes them back periodically and cashes them in. For those outside of Michigan, we have a 10 cent deposit on bottles and cans.
We split the proceeds up for this. Half of the money goes to our fund for the Christmas party, etc. Half goes to pay for cab fare for people that need it. We are located in an area with a lot of homeless and most of the cab fare is spent to cab people to the shelters, especially when it is cold. Some of the money though will be spent on people that truly have a need, elderly stuck without a ride, etc.
We paid $11 for a man one night that was in the ER from out of town and did not have cash, only plastic. He was a professional that generally would not need help and was quite grateful for it. We thought nothing of it and went about our business.
The next day the man returned and gave us $110. He said he gave this specific amount because it was exactly ten times what we gave him, to him this seemed significant. He wanted us to put the money into the fund to help other people, which we did.
We work in a tough part of town. Our ER can be a war zone. I have been punched, kicked, bitten, and have heard the F word spewed at me unstopping for long, long periods of time. We have had staff injured from assaults. I have walked out to my car at night and there was a man down in the street shot.
We are considered the charity hospital. The population of patients I often work with are, let‘s say, a little different. People that live off of the public dole and are indignant when they feel they are not getting their money’s worth are the norm.
Now let me say, I work here intentionally. I like our mission to help the poor. I like working with the underserved and actually enjoy a lot of the indigent patients I work with. It’s just frustrating to work with some of the people I come in contact with.
Anyways, to say this man’s actions were something we were not used to is a bit of understatement. We’re used to ingratitude or at best begrudging thanks. We’re used to people that expect handouts and therefore have become a little jaded about the whole thing. To have this man go out of his way to return a favor restores a little faith. To have him repay the money was something we, as far as I know, have never had before. To have him repay it tenfold to help others was definitely a new experience. We talked about this man for days, it gave the staff quite a lift. I still think of this man from time to time when I am paying for someone’s cab fare.