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A Five-Dollar Encouragement

September 6, 2006

It doesn’t take much to encourage me. Not as much as I might think.

Over Labor Day, my wife and I decided to take a few days to ourselves and go to Napa. Since neither of us can drink alcohol, we took in the sights as best we could. Wife is hobbling around due to her sprained ankle (no, she did not kick at me and accidentally hit the fireplace, no matter what rumors I have been spreading), and so we could not do much hiking or biking. Therefore, without the ability to wine-taste, hike or do the normal tourist things, we had to get creative.

There is a lot more to taste in the Napa/Sonoma area than just wine. We had the privilege of perfecting our cheese-tasting skills at the Sonoma Cheese Factory. We go there at least every year to stock up on the best Jack cheese anywhere (they were making it before any place in Monterey was). After that we travelled to two other places up the Valley of the Moon and sampled some locally pressed olive oil. I never knew what an extra-virgin olive oil was (you didn’t know olives did that sort of thing, did you?). Now that I have tasted the best, I may never go back to the grocery store variety. After that was the chocolate tasting (you heard me right). That was something I treasure…in fact, I brought back several treasures. I am a dark chocolate lover and this store had everything from a 42% blend all the way to 90%. The blend involves sugar, milk and cacao, with more cacao as the blend goes higher. Though the higher blends are more bitter, they are more my taste buds’ liking. And, dark chocolate is better for you.

After this, we went up the hill to the Jack London State Park, where the famous writer of “Call of the Wild” had his homestead. On the large acreage, they have preserved a huge museum and travelogue out of his place. We were excited to read in their online brochures that they had golf carts to ferry around those with disabilities. Since wife is currently in that category, it fit into our plans. We got up to the entrance gate and found to our dismay that it would cost us $6 to get in. We had gone cashless for the trip (using Debit cards suit us) and didn’t feel like driving back fifteen miles to an ATM. That is when the encouragement of the entire trip happened.

In front of us in line at the park entrance was a man and his wife and another couple. They looked to be about the same age as us. Wife hobbled over to the gate to check on the prices (my chivalry was distracted by looking up the online brochure on my PDA…yeah, right you say), and she looked dismayed to find out it was a cash deal. The man in front of us was filling out his form and dropping the money in when he noticed wife’s obvious mental pain. He asked what the matter was and she commented on our lack of cash. He then offered to put in our missing money.

He did what?

When was the last time you heard someone acting that way? Even though our society has become wealthier by the hour, we see so few willing and wanting to help out others unless there is an income tax receipt, a reward or a talk-show offer behind it. He just casually offered to pay our part. Wife and I were overwhelmed. Even two days later, I am amazed at this man’s attitude. And I am encouraged. Not everyone is consumed with cutting out their own cloth in life. Some are actually watching those around them to see if someone else needs a slice. That does more for me than hearing that “x” amount of dollars are given to relief work in Africa or so many people are being provided for after a hurricane. No one prodded or cajoled this man into helping us. He did it because it seemed the right thing for him to do.

Now all I have to do is pay it forward. Which I intend to do at the first opportunity.

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