If someone does you a favor, it's good to return the favor someday. Trouble is, you can't always repay the same person who helped you. I decided at some point that I could even things out by doing something good for someone else, inspired by or in honor of what that original person did for me. (This was well before the movie Pay It Forward, which I saw in an airplane once and thought was a dreadful, maudlin waste of time.)
When I lived in France, many people were very kind to me in ways both large and small. Inviting me for a meal, a visit, or an outing, they let me see into their lives and gave me a feeling of worth that was precious when I was far from home.
We recently hosted a young woman from France in our home for a couple weeks. We got along well and did a few excursions together: Greek Fest, Polish Fest (don't we have an American Fest, she may well be wondering?), an Irish music session, a baseball game, a visit to a relative in an assisted living facility (I guess that goes in the "slice of life" category). In a way, this was an even exchange, since we stayed with her family on our last visit to France. They were super hosts, and their kindness and openness would dispel anyone's stereotype of the French as unfriendly.
Well, we saw her off at the airport yesterday morning and figured that was the last we'd hear from her till after she got home. But that evening, as we were driving into the city for dinner, she called us from Washington Dulles airport. Her flight had been delayed arriving there, and so she'd missed the plane to France. Her new flight out would be the following evening at 6 p.m.! She planned to sleep in the airport, since she couldn't afford the hotel (darned airlines should've put her up, we think). We took the number of the payphone. We called her parents in France and gave them that number so they could call her. Then I started phoning around to my friends in the D.C. area. Soon I had J. on the line, and although he sounded tired (as might any father of two bright, energetic and strong-willed young children), he immediately agreed to put her up for the night and see to it that she got to the airport the next day. He is a real mensch! I thanked J. and then called her back at the airport, told her about J.'s offer, explained how to take the taxi (a new adventure), and spelled the unfamiliar street names, which are a lesson in American geography. I suspect she got there all right, since I haven't had any panicky phone calls to indicate otherwise.
So I'm not sure how incurrng a favor to repay a favor fits into the whole accounting, but then it's not the accounting that counts, eh? Great thanks to J. and L., who are also gracious and generous hosts.