I was in university and was invited to spend the weekend with a new crowd of people I'd just met. Actually I was sort of dating the guy who owned the house hosting the weekend gathering.
I didn't want to go.
The people in this crowd were several years older than me, seemed sophisticated beyond belief, had established careers and I felt completely out of place among them. While they discussed ensuites and time shares, I was wondering if I should pay the phone bill or spend the money on a new bus pass.
Everything about me screamed I was a struggling student from my thrift store clothes, to my worn out Doc Martens. I was working two jobs, living in a one bedroom basement apartment, just barely scraping by while finishing up my thesis and looking forward to graduating.
Since he lived out of town, knew I didn't have a vehicle, Ben (the guy hosting the get-together and who I was sort of dating) organized for me to ride up with a couple who were also going. The husband was forgettable but the wife, Debbie, well she shines like a diamond in a ditch full of coal. I think about her often.
Throughout the weekend my discomfort increased with each new activity. I couldn't afford to buy anything when the women invited me to go shopping at a nearby outlet mall and squirmed with shame when we went out for lunch to an expensive restaurant where all I could afford was a side salad and water.
Most conversations during that two days left me dry mouthed and at a loss. I didn't have a clue about investments, or yuppy life, had never played euchre, and had absolutely nothing to contribute to a discussion about golf club memberships.
It was Debbie who eased my out-of-placeness when she could. She didn't ever come out and say that she understood how I felt but small gestures made me aware of her empathy. She showed interest in what I was studying, recalling a few stories about how difficult it had been for her to juggle part time work while she was in school herself. Once she even suggested that we take a walk when she sensed I was at the pinnacle of my discomfort. Looking back, I wish I had just confided in her.
The few dollars I had budgeted for the weekend were earmarked to give Debbie and her husband to thank them for the ride. This I did quietly just as we were about to leave to come home. When her husband suggested we stop for lunch about half way through the trip, my stomach lurched. I had absolutely no money left and was planning to eat when I got back to my tiny apartment. We stopped in front of the restaurant and Debbie got out of the car. She leaned down to move her seat up to let me out and did something I will never forget. She reached down to the floor in front of me and handed me something.
I think you dropped this Kim, it must have slipped out of your purse.
It was a twenty dollar bill.
She understood my situation and saved me the humiliation of having to explain it to them. Needless to say, the relationship between Ben and me fizzled and I never saw Debbie again.
For years, remembering the moment she handed me that money always brought me a sense of shame. However, in the last while I've found my mind wandering to it again. What a beautiful way to help me out. She could have let her ego take over and loudly refuse to take the gas money, or she could have just pretended not to notice my discomfort like the other women. I'm grateful for this experience. I know that I am changed because of it.
I've tried to google her and find her on Facebook to say thank you after all these years. But she's nowhere to be found.
This post is brought to you by Shell's Pour your heart out over at Things I can't say. I took her lead in writing about a time I felt out of place.