69: What Happened When I Did the Right Thing

69: What Happened When I Did the Right Thing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers

What Happened When I Did the Right Thing

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.

~Chinese Proverb

I had committed to a five-hour book signing at a grocery store to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). I set up my books and posters (one of which said that a portion of the proceeds would be donated to JDRF) at my table right outside the entrance of the grocery store. It was a brisk, but sunny, Sunday morning, and I eagerly awaited what this adventure would bring.

My first prospect — a woman — hurried by, clutching the handle of her purse, her shoulders scrunched up and her head turned away from me. No way to strike up a conversation with her! Another walked quickly by, looking straight ahead, no eye contact. A man glanced quickly my way, but kept on walking. Another man smiled and nodded as he picked up his pace and went into the store. Then, a woman reached into her purse as she approached my table, pulled out a one-dollar bill, placed it on the table and kept on going — not a word spoken.

Not even five minutes had passed, but I very quickly realized that this was probably not the greatest venue for a book signing. People are on a mission when they go to the grocery store, especially on a cold Sunday morning. They want to run in, shop fast and get out. And since the person at the table is probably asking for money, that person is often ignored, or perhaps gets a quick smile as the shopper rushes past.

I wondered what I had been thinking. Five hours of this? I thought about leaving early. But then I decided that I had made a commitment and I had to honor it. I had to do the right thing and stay for the entire shift.

Time passed and then a woman came up to the table and asked me the price of the book. I told her twenty dollars and she pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and gave it to me. Then, she pulled out another twenty-dollar bill and said it was a donation. I suggested she take another book, but she declined. I was so excited — I sold a book! I thanked her profusely for being so generous and for supporting juvenile diabetes research.

She said, “No, no, no. It is I who want to thank you!” Then, she lifted the hem of her shirt a couple of inches to reveal an implanted insulin pump, and explained, “When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. I am now in my forties, married and have kids. It’s because of people like you, and the love you give, and the work that you do, that I am alive and standing here today. So, thank you!” My eyes welled up with tears and I didn’t know what to say.

Up until then, this project was a rather abstract way of helping others. I was still amazed that I had written my first book, Penelope’s Cruise, and that people would actually buy it and read it.

During this moment, I realized that selling just one book could contribute to saving someone’s life. I only sold three books that day but that was okay. The money being donated from the sale of those three books could help save someone’s life.

When I get stuck or I get rejected as I work on my mission to create products and events that give back, the first being Penelope’s Cruise, I remember this experience and it inspires me to keep working towards my goal. And by the way, now when I go to the grocery store and there is someone at a table, I almost always take a minute and stop by to see and honor what they are doing!

~Dodie Milardo

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