Gobby knew this pastor.
He lived in the same town as him, knew the same people, and went to the same grocery store. Gobby saw the guy multiple times a week since Gobby sold newspapers on the street.
Exactly on the corner of Peter Street and Walter Avenue, where the grocery store was located.
The Pastor shopped on Wednesdays. On his way, he always stopped for the homeless person sitting in front of the supermarket entrance.
Gobby saw that the Pastor talked to the person, perhaps even prayed, and then gave a sandwich that he just bought. On other days, the Pastor would help the person up and go for a stroll.
Gobby never knew what they did on their walks. They took about 30 minutes and then the Pastor brought the person back—dropping a couple of coins in the person’s plastic cup before going on his way.
There also was Solmi.
Solmi was a 7-year-old girl who could not walk—she could only skip and hop, which brought a smile to everyone’s face. And even if it didn’t, she would smile so big at you with her giant white teeth in her black face, that you couldn’t but smile back at her.
To get to school, Solmi always had to pass the newspaper stand and the supermarket. Gobby was very fortunate because he didn’t only get a smile from Solmi, he also got hugs and high-fives. That is why he always gave away a newspaper for free. In the first place for her father, but later on, Solmi read it herself too.
In summer, Solmi always plucked wildflowers and gave away half of them to people she saw on her way home. Some flowers weren’t actually wild but the farmer let her be.
She giggled as she skipped by Gobby, hugged him, and twirled around in her dress. She gave him a lavender. And a sunflower to the guy passing. Off she went.
Then there was Middo.
Gobby didn’t know what to think of Middo. He also wasn’t around long enough to make up a picture of the young guy with the long hair.
Middo always walked with a toque on, disappearing into the supermarket only to come out a couple of minutes later with an energy drink, noodles, and chips. Never cared for a plastic bag much—that’s why Gobby knew what he bought.
Middo dragged his feet home, in his wide pants, and would not appear for at least 2 days later. But it was on a cold, heavily snowy winter morning that Gobby was surprised to see Middo outside. Right in front of the supermarket, a girl—she must have been in her early twenties—slipped. Middo rushed to help her up and collected her groceries. The poor thing only wore a denim jacket in this cold weather.
Middo and the girl were exchanging some words. Gobby’s newspaper stand was too far away to hear a word. But before Middo and the girl separated ways, Middo offered her his coat. The girl refused at first but took it eventually.
It was at least 6 months later that that girl same walked up to Gobby. “Twenty minutes in a snowstorm—that coat kept me warm,” she said. The girl was trying to find Middo to give back his coat, but she didn’t know what Gobby knew: Middo was gone, he probably moved out of town.
Her eyes became watery and she embraced the coat. Then she told Gobby something he didn’t know.
That day, the day Middo gave his coat away, was the day the girl decided to end her life. But the act of kindness of Middo had given her a little glimmer of hope. Enough to keep going. And now she wanted to thank him.
But Middo had vanished. He would never know.
“Hello! Do you want a newspaper?”
“No… No. I am the person you always saw in front of the supermarket. You know, the one the Pastor always talked to and took on a stroll?”
Gobbý’s eyes went big.
“I know the Pastor passed away. But I was wondering if you knew the Pastor’s wife. I’d like to thank her for her husband’s efforts. Without him, I would never have found the strength to… well…” —struggling for words, “Well, everything. I even have a job now.”
Gobby smiled and gave directions to the Pastor’s home. It was too bad the Paster would never know.
Soon after, a gentleman bought a newspaper from Gobby. He was about to walk on but then turned around. Very kindly he said, “Sir, you don’t happen to know a little girl—well, not so little anymore now, I think—who handed out flowers years ago?”
“Do you mean, Solmi?” Gobby asked.
“I don’t know. She gave me a sunflower when I walked on this part of town.” He sighed. “She forever changed my life that day. It turned out that sunflowers were the favorite flowers of my date then—now my wife. It was the best thing I could’ve brought that day.” The gentleman gave a tap on the head and moved on.
Gobby smiled. He hadn’t seen Solmi in a while, but if she would visit the town in her summer break from university, he would let her know.
Excited, she wandered through the streets where she grew up. Only good memories filled her head while she walked to the place she was desperate of seeing. Right around the corner is where it was, the place where Peter Street and Walter Avenue come together.
But then she suddenly stopped walking. That wasn’t Gobby! At a faster pace, she hurried to the newsstand.
“Want a newspaper, miss?” a young boy asked.
“No. Where’s Gobby? The man who used to sell newspapers?”
“I’m sorry, M’am, I think he passed away.”
Solmi slapped her hands in front of her mouth. It was thanks to Gobby giving her newspapers, that she had become a reporter. She hoped he had known that. And that she was very grateful to him.
“You never know.”
The Jewish proverb stands for how you will never know the kind of impact a friendly gesture had on someone else.
It could be smiling at a passerby, buying a sandwich, giving away clothes to others in need, or simpling handing out a self-plucked (not-so-wild)flower.
You do a deed without expecting something in return.
You do a deed without ever knowing the impact.
You never know.