It's late in the afternoon of a very hectic day as I pull over to the curb on First Street in Lehighton to park my car. I just need to run in to First National Pharmacy to pick up a prescription, so I'll only be a minute.
Then I notice the time on the meter is expired. I reach for the York Mints tin in which I keep change. Taking it from its spot in the pocket of the driver's side door, I notice the tin is suspiciously light. And quiet.
No quarters. There are also no additional parking spaces with meters with time on them.
I'm standing next to the car for a moment, trying to decide whether to chance a run into the drugstore, when a woman who is sitting on a nearby stoop holds out a quarter, insisting I take it.
Thanking her profusely, I plunk the coin into the meter and go inside to pick up my prescription. I get change and hand a quarter to the woman, but she adamantly refuses to accept it.
"Thank you so much," I tell her. "If you won't take the quarter, I'll give it to someone else who needs to feed a meter." She smiles in return.
Pay it forward, no matter how inconsequential it may seem at the time.
Small, spontaneous acts of kindness, like the woman giving a quarter to a total stranger, are among those things that keep me believing in the future of humankind.
It's amazing how these tiny fireworks of good will light up the world with such magnificence.
In the words of the immortal Willy Wonka, "So shines a good deed in a weary world."
My experience in Lehighton was far from the first act of kindness bestowed upon me. But it did make me promise to be more aware of situations in which I could keep the momentum moving, and to appreciate those quiet acts of kindness I happened to have the good fortune to see.
They're not hard to spot, if one keeps an eye open.
Several came to light just this week: In Tamaqua, a good Samaritan helped a family that had been forced from their home and was living in a garage. The person not only helped the family find shelter, but rallied other volunteers to wash the family's laundry.
In West Penn Township, a woman takes it upon herself to feed and arrange to have neutered the cats that have been dumped off by heartless imbeciles.
In Lansford, a man spends Sundays donating time and effort to detail police cars, and a group provides free meals to anyone who walks through their doors, no questions asked. Another small group of volunteers has created what is now a thriving public library.
When a Summit Hill family's beloved Airedale escaped his kennel while his owners were on vacation, dozens of people pitched in to search. King was found, safe and sound.
At Pencor, employees each donate a dollar on "dress down" Thursdays and Fridays to help those in need.
In Lehighton, a stalwart group of volunteers works to stock, organize and distribute food to the needy. In Palmerton, an annual festival helps local nonprofit organizations raise funds to help others.
Many local folks offer their precious free time to coach kids' sports, be scout leaders, deliver meals to the homebound, and provide transportation to cancer patients.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead sure did get it right when she said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."