A few weeks ago, while driving a girlfriend home in Chicago, we spotted a woman sit down, get up, then sit down again in the middle of Ridge Avenue just south of the intersection with Pratt Avenue.  As we waited in the intersection to make a left turn onto Pratt, we saw traffic passing behind and in front of the woman.  We were concerned about her safety but were not sure what to do.  Jumping out of the car and approaching the woman was not an option since our safety would then be put at risk. 

Thank goodness, the woman got up shortly and walked in our direction.  My friend rolled down her window and yelled, “Are you all right?”  The woman came to our car and asked if she could get a ride.  Since there were the two of us and my friend was no “shrinking violet,” we said okay.  She got in and was crying.  We did not ask her any questions about her middle-of-the-road situation.

Calmly, as we drove down Pratt, we asked her several times where we could take her.  She continued to cry and said nothing.  We finally told her more authoritatively that she had to tell us where to go.  Between sobs, she gave us directions and said how kind we were. 

When we reached where she wanted to go (unknown to us until we arrived there), she told us to pull over and asked if she could use a phone.  I told her I would call the number for her.  When I said that there was no answer and the recording said the mailbox was full, she thanked my friend and me profusely and got out of the car.  Our good deed had come to an end.  We hoped she would be all right.

As we drove away, my friend told me a story a coworker had told her.  She said this coworker routinely drove to a bus stop on her way from work to pick up several coworkers that waited there.  One morning the driver did her usual pickup but after going a short distance, she realized that a stranger had also gotten into the car.  The driver had the presence of mind to announce the route she would drive, then she asked the stranger politely, “And where can I drop you off?”  The stranger was deposited along the route, and after the stranger got out, the driver and coworkers laughed and laughed at how ludicrous the situation had been.  It could have been part of a comedy routine.  My girlfriend and I laughed and laughed and laughed some more.  This indeed had been an example of a good deed gone wrong.  Or had it?!

“To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.” –Sophocles

“Be kind to everything that lives.” –Native American

“Be known by the tracks you leave.” – Native American

November is American Indian Heritage Month, first proclaimed in 1990.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...