I pride myself on being street smart, way too savvy to fall for the latest con or be anybody's bitch - which makes the story I’m about to share with you all the more embarrassing.
It happened several years ago as I was walking home from work, one of those beautiful summer days that seemed to attract all of the out of town tourists. A young man stopped me on the sidewalk, asking for directions. He was from the UK, and as part of his graduation gift his grandparents had given him a trip to beautiful British Columbia. He said it had been a wonderful journey, except for the fact that he had somehow confused his departure date, missing his flight home. Like most young travelers he had spent almost all of his money and was trying to figure out how he was going to find the means to get to the airport - and pay the required penalty for having to reschedule his flight.
I admit, there was a part of me that wondered if he was scamming me – but like most things in life timing is everything. My son Tyler had just returned home from his grand adventure – 6 months exploring South East Asia with a group of friends. While in Cambodia he was swarmed by a group of children, who somehow managed to take his ATM card, credit cards and money. Even though the majority of people living in Cambodia are very poor, they gave new meaning to that old adage “if not for the kindness of strangers”. The good people of a small Cambodian village came to my baby boy's rescue, providing him with food, shelter and even loaning him money to hold him over until Tom and I could help sort things out. Considering everything we had been through, is it any surprise that I had sucker written across my forehead?
The young man and I went to my bank, where I took out $100. When I gave him the money he started to cry real tears. He seemed to be genuinely touched and even asked me why I was being so generous with a total stranger. I explained that he was the same age as my Tyler, and rambled on about the importance of karma and returning good deeds.
Of course when I got home and told Tyler and Tom my story, their immediate reaction was utter disbelief. Months passed and I never heard anything from the young man, who had insisted on taking my business card and promised to pay back every penny.
Fast forward to last week - a middle age man stops me on the street to ask directions – different details but the same routine. Reality check, I finally had to admit that the young man probably conned me.
I've had a few days to think about it and strange as it may seem, I’m okay with it. In hindsight I'm not sure I would do anything different. I still believe in helping strangers.......sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust people.