Ethics Encounter In The CVS Parking Lot

My local CVS on Quaker Lane in Alexandria, VA, scene of many human dramas….

The errand I tried to complete this afternoon (resulting in my hearing the most outrageous comedy act I have encountered  since Red Foxx and Buddy Hackett were in their vulgar primes) failed, so I had to return to my pharmacy to get four refills of various drugs. As I was getting out of the car, I heard a loud voice shouting “God DAMN you!” and realized that the expletive came from behind the mask of large African-American man  of indeterminate age. I had to ask, “Was that directed at me?”

He immediately shook his head vigorously and walked over to me, saying, “No no! I’m so sorry, I was yelling at myself! I’m so damn mad—I locked myself out of my car!”

He continued, “Hey, maybe you’re my guardian angel.” He started handing me his IDs and wallet, and showed me the pills he had just received from the same pharmacy where I was headed. The man was sweating hard.  “I’m not some gangster or anything, I swear—I’m just hot, and tired, and I have prostate cancer…” I interrupted him.

“Just tell me how I can help. Do you need a ride home?” Continue reading

Ethics Jump-Ball At The 7-11

Boy, you better be quick if you want to be “pay it forward” in Alexandria, Virginia.

Today I dropped by the local 7-11 for a quick purchase and was third in a line of four. Being served was a very tall—basketball player tall—, very striking young African American man, late 20s, early 30s,  in a three- piece suit and tie. He had his items on the counter for checkout, and excused himself briefly to go out to his car where he said he had left his wallet. A few seconds later he stepped back into the store and said, “Never mind. I’m sorry, I left my wallet at home,” and started to leave. I hesitated maybe two seconds and started to speak, as did the man ahead of me. I was about to say that I would pay for his items, but the guy behind me, short, stocky, white, about 50, and noticeably missing a few teeth in front, stepped out and said, “Hey, man, I’ve got it.”

The young man looked surprised and said, “Are you sure?” “Of course. Is that it?” replied the older man, pointing to the counter.

“Just pay it forward, friend,” said the man in front of me.

“Thank you,” said the Kareem Abdul Jabbar look-alike.  I really did think he looked like Kareem, early 70’s vintage, but handsomer. He also appeared a lot more affluent than his shorter benefactor. “Here’s my contact information…” and he reached into his pocket.

“No, no, come on, that’s not necessary,” said his new friend,, flashing his missing teeth in a big smile. “I’ve got it. We’re all in this together.” And he paid the clerk.

The tall black man shook his hand, and they both held the clasp for a few second. “Thanks so much,” he said.

After he left, both I and the man in front of me congratulated the winner of this ethics jump ball, saying that we both were about to do the same thing, but he had been quicker.

“Oh no!” he said suddenly, eyes twinkling. “I just spent my last dollar! Now I can’t pay for MY stuff!”

“See? I’d really have you both then, wouldn’t I?”

And we all laughed.

News From The “Pay It Forward” Front: Neal Shytles

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At the beginning of this month, Ethics Alarms honored Ashley McLemore of Norfolk, Virginia, who answered the ad placed by a homeless man, Neal Shytles who wanted to spend Thanksgiving with a family. He spent the day with hers, and for Christmas, Shytles devised a way to help others like himself in need of holiday kindness.

Neal resolved to make goodie bags for the hundreds of men who always assemble for dinner at his local mission, creating a Facebook page to collect Walmart gift cards to purchase socks, gloves, hand warmers and candy. His efforts raised more than a thousand dollars that was matched by the local TV station that first broadcast the story of Ashley McLemore’s kindness.   Then WTKR took Neal to Walmart, where he filled four carts, and its staff helped him  assemble the gifts  into dozens of brown paper bags.

Thanks, Neal. I needed this story.

The Ethics Scrooge On The Starbucks Pay-It-Forward Ponzi Scheme

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The Ethics Scrooge here.

If you think I’m going to get all misty eyed about the “random acts of kindness” fun and games Florida Starbucks customers have been amusing themselves with lately,  you are sadly mistaken.

The happy-talk story of the week—and I admit, the nation needed one—concerned a St. Petersburg, Florida Starbucks where an early morning customer at the drive-through window decided to “pay it forward” and buy coffee for the next person in line.That customer emulated the spirit of the Kevin Spacey weepie,  and bought a drink for the next person in line at the drive-through, and so it continued throughout the day, with 378 customers purchasing drinks for the strangers in line behind them, a so-called altruism chain that lasted 11 hours.

Awww. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes, Holiday Division: The Philly Mystery Diners

Ethics Newsline reported a story that we almost missed: a  mysterious anonymous couple ate breakfast at the Aramingo Diner in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, and paid for both their meal and that of the diners at a table next to them. Their spontaneous act of generosity set off a “pay it forward” chain reaction worthy of Haley Joel Osment that had one waitress crying tears of joy. For the next five hours, everybody paid someone else’s check, “paying it forward,” with no concern about the price of the meals involved.

Was it  just a group of people who decided to act out a scene from a Christmas movie Frank Capra forgot to make? Did it only happen because the diner had reasonably priced meals? Was the whole thing staged by some street theater group?

Let’s hope it was not a stunt, and that the experience of being nice to strangers for no reason other than that it’s a good habit to have will last longer than the family Christmas tree.

As for the Mystery Couple—Ethics Heroes for sure—good work, and Merry Christmas!