"I'm kind of embarrassed to ask this, but, I think you can help me save my marriage."
So starts my conversation with Ryan at Hingham Bathing Beach this morning. He is a tall man pulling kayaking gear and children out of a shiny SUV parked one spot away from my battered sedan and my sand-covered kayak.
"Do you live near here?" he continues.
I nod, cock my head and squint one eye, indicating he should continue.
"My wife is ready to kill me because I left one of our paddles at home. We drove all the way from Newton to go to World's End, only to find out they don't let people kayak from the Reservation. We got caught in a Memorial Day parade in Weymouth. We left 2 hours ago and we still aren't in the water. She's really ready to divorce me."
I look at the woman carrying an infant and ferrying a toddler towards two kayaks on the shore maybe 20 feet away.
Ryan then asked tentatively, "Are you done for the day? Can we, uhm, borrow your paddle?"
I thought for a moment about BMG, and how mad he'd be if the paddle was lost or stolen or damaged. And then I put myself in Ryan's shoes, feeling the frustration and anger and disappointment that comes from best laid plans that are about to be thwarted.
"Sure," I replied, "You can borrow my paddle. I'm done for the day."
We exchanged numbers, and I told Ryan to call when they got back to the Harbor. He could leave the paddle at the gazebo on the town green, just beyond the asphalt where we both had parked our cars.
As he triumphantly ran down the beach with the paddle and I started tying up my kayak, the elderly couple in the car on the other side of mine said to me, "Nice work. You really did save their marriage. You should have heard them arguingI"
I smiled and said in my most pious voice, "Do unto others, for you never know when you'll need a favor from a stranger someday."
If feels good to do something nice for someone you don't know - particularly something that is immediately recognized as a an act of generosity. Why? For me I feel like I've done just a tiny bit to create joy for someone else, and through my actions, reinforced my own wish for a world filled with kindness and respect.