A Good Deed Goes Bad


Today I had one of those experiences that feels like someone kind of kicked me in the stomach. One of those things that can happen, even if you are just minding your own business, even if you have good intentions, even if you were keeping your side of the street clean. Nothing major. Just a drive-by quick hit. Totally unexpected. And I thought I was so grounded and mature and spiritual at this point, especially compared to where I was, that I was almost immune from things that could be explained away … someone was just having a bad day. Someone comes from a different culture. Someone misunderstood my intentions. No big deal.

But I couldn’t just shake it off.

What happened is this: I have an acquaintance through a volunteer job. She’s a teacher and I am a tutor that helps one of her students who struggles with reading.

Let me say first that I don’t know this woman well at all, and that we recently moved to a small town in the South, where we are somewhat unfamiliar with the way people think. The woman is a fantastic teacher and goes out of her way to encourage her students. She seems free-spirited … dances with the kids, twirls them around just for fun.

She has a daughter who is learning disabled who also attends the school. I’m pretty sure she’s single. Anyway, last time I was there, she showed me her cell phone with a distraught look. She said, “A child just broke my phone. For the first time in my life, I bought a $600 phone, and now it’s broken after just a week.” She wasn’t mad at the child. More at herself for having let him play with it. She added, “No good deed goes unpunished, right?”

She went on to say that she couldn’t afford to replace the phone, and that she needed new tires desperately. She had been saving for the tires, but now she didn’t know what she was going to do. She rolled her eyes and went back to teaching.

I relayed the story to my husband, and he said exactly what I had been thinking. Why not give her the money for the phone? We had recently kicked all of our own children off of their long-term phone plans and were going to “pay it forward” with the money we saved. My husband’s sister is a teacher, so he has a soft spot for them.

Long story short, I gave the teacher a card thanking her for all her hard work and enclosed a Visa card for $600. I explained that we were paying it forward, supported teacher’s causes, and wanted her to have it, for tires or a phone, or whatever. I put a smiley face after my signature. I told her she had to accept it. I was smiling.

She began to open it, and then covered her mouth as if she were going to cry, and I kind of half-hugged her and left so that she wouldn’t have to thank me or be embarrassed by the whole thing.

That was Friday.

I didn’t hear from her over the weekend, which was fine. We usually communicate very briefly by text. I went in this morning, and she was at the back of the classroom, looking through her phone. This is unusual for her. She is always at the door, welcoming students, laughing with parents, etc.  I left with my student, trying not to disturb the class.

When I returned, she was in the same place and did not answer the classroom door when I knocked. Another child finally opened the door. The woman didn’t look up from her phone, even for a second. She knew I was there. She didn’t want to see or talk to me. It was clear. I didn’t try to get her attention as she was clearly not wanting to give it. I left, a little stunned.

Let me say that I have had a whole day to process this and have (mostly) overcome my hurt  and even anger at the situation. But, given that no one has attacked me and no one is dying, and given the very real situations I have been in where terrible things were, in fact, happening, I am surprised at the unreasonable amount of hurt I feel.

It’s been a long time since I felt this hurt without the anesthetic of alcohol.

(Continued tomorrow as this post is getting way too long.)

27 thoughts on “A Good Deed Goes Bad

  1. One of the main reasons people give is for acknowledgment. I mean this in a really nice way. It’s why we all do it on some level, it’s normal to want that, to expect that. We want to do something good for someone and be acknowledged. Not many give without expecting that. Once a man ahead of me bought my fast food and the clerk told me after I got up to my turn at the window. I had no idea by then who had done it, I hadn’t paid attention to the car in front of me. It blew me away that he didn’t want a thank you. It’s why it is so important for charities to have strong recognition programs. Not necessarily flashy ones, just good solid programs that thank their donors and make them feel appreciated. It feels odd, unsettling even, when we give, from a place in our heart and it’s not properly acknowledged. What you don’t know is what she is feeling. Gifts like the one you made are unconditional, and, as you told her, she could use it for however she wants. Perhaps she isn’t used to unconditional giving and doesn’t know how to acknowledge it. She obviously didn’t give it back! I recommend just initiating contact with her so she doesn’t feel awkward as if you are waiting for something she can’t, maybe doesn’t know how to give…..a thank you. Let her feel her way through it…she may have even blown it in some way she shouldn’t have and feels horrible about telling you that. She may not believe that you aren’t expecting something in return. You need to let her know that you aren’t expecting her to have to tell you….do this not by direct words, but comforting actions. I will, however, acknowledge you. That was one helluva special good thing you did! I’m proud of you!!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth. Who knows what she is thinking or what she is going through? I think the gesture was wonderful, thoughtful and inspiring. It seems odd she would tell you her worries then say nothing when you help them go away…but like I said, who knows what she’s thinking? And if she is angry and things don’t work out, that’s nothing you can control. You can only control you.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You are so right — I can only control me, and even that, just barely. ; )

        I’m hoping to blog through this (maturely) to help me let go of my expectations of what is the “appropriate” response. God knows there isn’t one.

        Thanks, Jami.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. This is a great perspective that I hadn’t really considered. But I do realize that gifts should be given WITHOUT REGARD TO HOW THEY ARE RECEIVED. This is emphasized over and over again in all of my spiritual reading, so I have to look to myself and my reaction as the real source of the problem, if there is one. And you’re right — she didn’t give it back and say, “Look, I’m sorry, I can’t accept that.” So it’s floating around out there somewhere. Unless she doesn’t know that the cards have been activated, meaning they are the same as cash and we will never know if they’ve been spent or not. Hmmmm.

      Thank you so much for putting a positive spin on this situation, and especially thank you for the acknowledgement. I really hesitated to blog about this because it’s so off-topic in the sober world and I felt like I was whining. Which I am.

      I will save the rest of what I was going to tell you for today’s blog. ; )


      Liked by 3 people

      1. You did right to blog about it. We are community and we help eachother. I blogged about my colleagues missing daughter ( now found and home safe) and I even blogged about praying which may have alienated some people but I needed/wanted to share

        Liked by 4 people

    1. I hope so much that that is the case, Kelly. And actually, I am OK without any kind of thanks. I just hope I didn’t offend her somehow. I may have stepped over some line that I didn’t even know what there. Not knowing is what bothers me most.


  2. That was a very nice gesture…perhaps she is overwhelmed. Maybe she is afraid you have an interior motive.

    If you work with her regularly I would just ask if things are ok and let her explain. If she wants to give back the money accept it.

    You did nothing to feel bad about.

    I often pay for the car behind me in a drive though. My daughter asks why, as maybe the person behind me is mean…I tell her I hope so. You never know when a small gesture might change someone’s day.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Thanks, Anne. And of course I have to question my own motives. What is it I hoped to get in return? To be her favorite tutor? To build my self-image as a “good” person? To make up for being such a taker in all those drinking years?
      I am going to text her today so that she has a neutral medium to respond. Any other type of contact would be in front of a whole class, so I think this is the best alternative. Plus, it saves me from an unpleasant encounter. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was an amazingly generous gesture. She is either incredibly overwhelmed and somewhat uncomfortable or is used to being the recipient of gifts and underwhelmed. I think the first is probably true. Whatever the case YOU have done nothing wrong. If she is unable to accept your generosity that has nothing to do with you, it is her issue.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am upset that what I tell myself doesn’t cancel out the bad feelings. It should, shouldn’t it? I am always “explaining” things to my kids, thinking that logic will overrule hurt, but it doesn’t. Not right away, anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m biting my tongue until I hear part 2. I wanted to say (see, I can’t bite my tongue obviously) that maybe something had happened that needed her direct and immediate attention and it was just timing. I think it was a wonderful, thoughtful thing that you did, but perhaps it was a little overwhelming for her? When something like that happens (smashed phone, need new tires), sometimes the person is already working out a plan themselves and then they get this amazing gift and blow it on something else and then feel embarrassed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to agree with the consensus here about her perhaps not knowing how to process the very generous gift. Some people are embarrassed by gestures like that, and maybe that is what is going on? Hard to play armchair psychiatrist methinks. But I also understand what people are saying about gifts being unconditional, and I also know what you are trying to convey. I know you aren’t looking for a bronze statue in your honour, but I think we have a way of projecting onto others how we would react. I know for me, that if I were that teacher, I would be overdoing it in the thank you…lol. I would be so grateful I would be stumbling in ways to try and repay you. But that’s ME. I have heard of situations like this where the recipient acts aloof afterwards, or just as if nothing happened. It’s more about them than anything else, and they may not be trying to put you off…that is just how they are processing it.

    Anyway, I think it was VERY kind and generous of you.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Paul. I could handle her never mentioning it again, but it seems (right now) as if she wants to avoid me altogether. That’s OK too, unless I have really offended her. (I blogged further about this today by mentioning the whole political side of it — that she might be angry that I considered her a “charity case.”) I’ve seen that in the movies but have never come across it in real life.
      Thank you so much for the positive spin as well — she could just be embarrassed. I can live with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh dear, my comment is not here. Not sure what must have happened, I tried to share with you that over the years I have been the recipient of such generous and thoughtful kindness and I have always been thankful but questioned if I had truly shown it., like truly rose up to thank the person enough. I said I hoped she was rallying herself to coming forward. Now I see you have updated so dying to see what happened.

    Liked by 1 person

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