Bobby Neal Winters

Oscar Wilde said, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

This is an axiom of administrative work.  

I would like to explore it a little, but I will need to go back more than forty years to do so.

My first car was a 1965 Chevy II Nova.  I’ve mentioned it before.  In Spanish its name was more honest: No va.  It translates as “it doesn’t go.”  And mine didn’t go.  It had a maximum speed of about 60.  My dad had bought it for me for $75 and had his friend get it running for $300 more.  It had four doors and it’s windows rolled up and down. 

I drove it to school. 

My school was two miles from my house.  Between my school and my house was the town of Harden City.  Let me describe Harden City to you.  A gravel road crossed a blacktop road and there were a handful of buildings there.

In one of those buildings, there lived a poor family.  I am going to call them the Cunninghams because it suits me.  There are levels of poor and ways of being poor.  The Cunninghams were poor in money, but not poor in spirit. 

I say they weren’t poor in spirit because they asked me for rides to and from school.  They were in grade school and I was in high school. I could’ve said no and made it stick, but I didn’t.  It was nothing to me.  They were on the way. I pulled about 100 feet off the main road, dropped them off, and then headed back on my way.

I forget how many Cunninghams there were.  Like I say, it was at least 4 decades ago.  There were at least two.  The younger one--who was 7 or 8 at the time--had the foulest mouth I have ever heard on a boy of his age, but he had his big brother, who I will call Walter Jr--because it pleases me--to take care of him.  It became a routine.  I did it for a year or two and haven’t thought much about it since.  

Then in the course of talking to my brother, he mentioned that Walter Jr. had caught COVID and was in the hospital.

Then, stretched out over time, came news of his gradual decline and death.

His demise has affected me disproportionally to our relationship.  Our entire interaction with each other had been in five minute intervals on a daily basis over maybe a year or two; but I find myself with tears in my eyes.

All I know of him is this: He’d been a good brother who got rides for himself and his little brother. I saw his obituary picture on Facebook, and I wouldn’t’ve recognized him if I’d passed him on the street.

We are connected by a tiny, tiny act of kindness on my part that came at no cost to me.

Until now.

Every interaction we have with a fellow human being binds them to us by a tiny thread. As we grow older and busier these threads are spread out.  Those threads we form when we are younger are bunched closer together.  They become intertwined with other threads, other memories.  This is tied up with memories of my car and therefore memories of my father, my mother, some of my school teachers who are many years gone.  

The well of tears is deep.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Do them anyway.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube. )