The Keys of Kindness

For your enjoyment, here’s a short story I’d written a couple of years ago that was printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Random Acts of Kindness ™ .

Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments.

~The Talmud

 It was already hot and humid when my husband left for work at six on that July morning. I waved as he pulled out of the driveway and went back inside to enjoy a couple of hours of peace and quiet before my teenagers awoke.

With a second cup of coffee swirling curlicues of steam in front of me, I sat at the kitchen table and planned my day: deposit a couple of checks at the bank, take out some cash, and maybe go to the mall to shop for a new pair of sneakers.

Sometime around noon I grabbed my purse, said goodbye to the kids, who were now in the living room watching TV, and headed for the car. In the carport next door, our neighbor Eddie was tinkering under the hood of his pickup truck. We traded hellos and a few moments of chitchat before I left in my Honda Civic.

The bank was two miles from the house. I pulled into a space in front of the glass- enclosed ATM machine and reached to turn off the ignition, but decided against it.

Instead, I hopped out of the car with the engine running and the air conditioner on.

atm-2820328_960_720.pngThe ATM machine sucked in my card and asked for my PIN number. I typed it in and then threw an over-the-shoulder glance at the car where a multi-colored ribbon tassel hanging from the rearview mirror danced above the dashboard in the cool air. I couldn’t wait to get back inside to enjoy it.

Transaction complete, I went to the car and tugged on the door handle. If ever I had an uh-oh moment, it was then. The door was locked.

The Louisiana sun was beating down on me while I stood deflated, wondering what to do. I didn’t relish the thought of a two-mile hike back to the house to get the spare set of keys.

I entered the bank and took a deep breath of cool air before approaching a teller window. The young woman who greeted me listened sympathetically as I told her my problem. When I asked if I could make a call, she cheerfully obliged by showing me to the end of the counter and pushing a telephone across the polished surface.

“Hello, Fawn,” I said when my daughter answered. “I locked my keys in the car at the bank, and the engine is running. Can you go next door and ask Eddie if he would bring me the spare set, please?”

Fawn came back on the line a few minutes later. The news wasn’t good. Eddie was in the middle of an oil change and wouldn’t be able to help for a while. I hung up and relayed my dilemma to the teller.

“You’re Fawn’s mother?” she asked, sounding a bit apologetic for listening in on my conversation.

“Yes, I am.”

Her face lit up. “I’m Carmen. Fawn and I often work together in the church nursery. She’s a wonderful person. I just love her to pieces. You must be an awesome mom.”

keys-473461_960_720Carmen dug through her purse, pulled out a set of keys, and held them toward me. “Here, take my car. It’s the brand-new Corolla parked outside facing the street. I just got it yesterday.”

I was stunned. “Are you sure about lending me your new car?”

“Yes. Please, take it.”

As my fingers wrapped around the keys, a hint of worry shadowed her pretty face.

Clearly, letting go was a sacrifice. I was a stranger, and her car was new. She’d worked hard for it. But because of the connection we shared through my daughter, she was willing to take a chance.

“You’ll drive carefully, won’t you?” she asked as I stepped away from the counter.

“I will. I promise.” And, I kept my promise. Fifteen minutes later I returned with Carmen’s car, my spare keys, and my daughter.

“Thank you for helping my mom,” Fawn said, standing before Carmen, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Oh, it was nothing.”

Warmth flooded my heart as I watched the girls share a hug.

To me, the gesture wasn’t “nothing.” It was a huge “something.” I had merited a favor based on my daughter’s reputation, and I was grateful to Carmen for lending me her car. But more than that, Carmen probably didn’t realize that she’d given me a gift—the most precious words a mother could ever hear: “You must be an awesome mom.”

For those kind words, I will forever be grateful.

~Irene Onorato~

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