When I moved to Chicago six years ago, some guys I’d met on earlier trips here—guys I barely knew beyond a conversation in a bar and a few follow-up emails—showed up at 10 am on a Sunday to help my folks and me unload our truck and haul a bunch of heavy furniture down a long hallway and up a spiral staircase to the world’s smallest fourth-floor apartment, even though the apartment number was officially 305. (And now that I know these guys better, I understand what a supreme sacrifice it was for them to do much of anything at 10 am on a weekend morning.)
Despite their generosity with their saving-Jake-a-bundle manpower, these guys and I have never really become friends. I see them around, we make small talk, some of us exchange holiday cards … but we don’t hang out and we don’t call each other and we never really clicked on any lasting level. So I can never directly repay the immense favor they did for an almost complete stranger on a lovely July morning six years ago.
So I switched to Plan B: paying it forward. Since my movers-dropping-from-the-heavens experience I’ve grabbed every opportunity to help other friends move, lend people stuff, give rides, paint kitchens, pledge money, offer up a couch to crash on, introduce potential love interests, hold hands in the hospital, show up with treats and do any number of other things that just seem like a great way to pass along the goodwill.
So when my friend Barb told me she needed to replace the ceiling light in her kitchen, I volunteered to do it for her. (Replacing a ceiling light is relatively simple, falling somewhere between braiding Barbie hair and stuffing a cat in a cereal box. And the change you create is often so dramatic you look like a total stud for doing it.)
Barb is a bright, interesting woman with bright, interesting friends and a cool house (now with a brighter, interesting kitchen!) and delightful gay neighbors. And after I installed her light yesterday afternoon, I also learned she’s an amazing cook. To thank me, she whipped up a little something that would take me decades just to plan: a carrot-ginger soup that was so good it almost made me hum, a lovely Greek salad, grilled Vidalias and red peppers, and a flank steak marinated in pure deliciousness. And for dessert, ginger gelato and about four hours of delightful conversation. All of which is totally harshing the buzz I used to enjoy from the post-workout protein binge (fistfuls of lunchmeat, pb&j on wheat, tuna salad without mayo, etc.) I usually wolf down every afternoon.
What’s more, now I’m obsessed with carrot-ginger soup! I’ve already googled it and printed four of the recipes I found, all of which I intend to try. (I didn’t print the recipes that included butternut squash, which is just gross, or anything from the butter/cream/childbearing hips family.) And thank goodness my sister bought me an everything-you-ever-needed-to-know-about-cooking cookbook for my birthday, because I wouldn’t know how to peel ginger if I were stuck on a desert island with her.
And the next time I move—which should be within the next year; I’ve been working with a Realtor to make it happen sooner than later—I’ll definitely hire movers so I won’t feel guilty about not being their BFFs. And I may even offer them some delicious soup.