I had started my column for this week on politics and was trying to figure out how to use a U.S. Court of Appeals opinion.  As I tried to find a good summary of the case, there was a knock on our front door.

It was one of the students next door.  Her boyfriend’s car wouldn’t start.  She wondered if I could pull my car around and help; they had cables.  I replied that I had a jump starter and we could use that instead.

I put on my coat and boots and went to our garage.  I pulled the starter out of the back of my SUV and checked it.  The green light didn’t come on, but three red bars were showing.  I’ll give it a try anyway.

He said he had “one of those” but it wasn’t charged.  We hooked up my charger, and he tried the ignition.  Whir! Whir! Whir! but no start.  He said that was better than before.  I said I would plug my charger in and come back if his didn’t get charged first.

Back to the political article.  Steps on front porch.  My neighbor was back.  She said they were going to Chester Creek Café.  I said, “Let’s give a try with my car.  I forgot all about using it.”

But first I checked the charger and it did show the green bar intermittently.  We hooked it up to boyfriend’s car again. Whir! Whir! Whir! but no start.  He said that was better than before.  I apologized for not bringing my car next to his.

I did that and we hooked up his jumper cables.  Even though the negative sparked on contact, his car didn’t start.  He suggested using a point at the end of the ground cables from the battery. Whir! Whir! Whir! but no start.  He said that was better than before.

Oh!  I forgot to gun my engine as he tried to start his.  I gunned it.  He tried to start his.  Thumbs up!

They thanked me profusely.  I said,  “Pass the favor on.  I know you will many times.”

Oh!  How many times have people done favors for me without any expectation of reward?  Their only motivations were either politeness when there was no real inconvenience and trying to help someone in need even if it was inconvenient to them.

How often do people hold the elevator door or open a door for others?

Last winter I wrote about a father and son pulling us out of the ditch.

How many times do neighbors do more shoveling or snow-blowing than just their own portion?

I’ve lost track of times I’ve left my lock or a piece of clothing behind at the fitness center, and somebody has turned it in to the front desk

My wife left her wallet at a bus stop and didn’t realize it until the bus pulled away.  We got off at the next stop and ran back.  Her wallet was gone!  She reported it to the transit authority, but they had no record of it being turned in.  She called the fitness center.  No wallet.

She called to cancel her credit cards and was considering applying for another driver’s license.  Two days later, a small package was in the mail.  It was her wallet with all of its contents.  The woman who found it had decided that returning that way was better than turning it over to a bus driver.  My wife sent a thank you note to the finder and a bit more money than the postage.

How many times have we left hats or gloves at various places?  When we return, the left items are in an obvious place or behind the counter.

When I visited Prague I had taken a long walk taking many pictures.  At one point I realized I didn’t have my lens cap.  I retraced my steps and found it on one of the concrete posts of the bridge I had been on.  I could have set it down there myself, but I don’t think so.  I believe somebody found it on the sidewalk and put it in a more obvious place for the owner to find.

Sometimes we have mixed emotions about the favors people do for us.  I had skidded my car into the gully of a freeway medium.  There was no way I was going to get it out by myself.  I started to walk to a nearby hotel, but two guys offered to take me to a garage farther away.

They were smoking, playing loud music, didn’t give me a chance to put my seat belt on, and went over the speed limit.  I wondered if I would even be dropped at that garage.  They did drop me off and asked for nothing in return.  Within an hour my car was out of the median strip and I was on my way home.

I think this all may be indirect payback for the time, decades ago, that I stopped one night to help four teen-agers who had some car trouble.  I don’t remember if it was a flat tire or something else.  I don’t even remember if I did more than provide some light to change a tire by.  I do think they were on their way again before I went my way.

Whether you help someone or are helped, most likely the roles will be reversed another time.

Mel wonders where he would be if others hadn’t helped him in big or little ways.