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Perspective: Generosity Tour

Mark Cruz

It was a hot summer night at the Dairy Queen on north Main Street here in Princeton. A mom and her three kids were waiting in line. A middle-aged couple sat on the bench.

“Hey strangers. You just sitting here, waiting for someone you can buy an ice cream cone for?” I asked.

“Well, it’s kind of funny that you said that,” he answered. “We’re actually on a generosity tour.”

Then his wife chimed in. “We drove from South Dakota to Pennsylvania and now we’re on our way back.”

“I was just kidding," I said. “But it would be kinda fun, wouldn’t it? A Pay it Forward treat tonight!”

They laughed. I got my vanilla cone and dripped it all over myself. She waved a five dollar bill at me and winked.

“Really. I was just kidding,” I Iaughed as she gave me a napkin. She put her money away and we had a nice little conversation. Turned out her husband had grown up in Danville, Pennsylvania, where my parents owned a farm 50 years ago. Right off Interstate 80. Like Princeton, here at Exit 56.

“You from here?” she asked. “What do you do?”

I mentioned that I run a used bike shop where people give us bicycles, we fix them and give most of them away.

“We thought this seemed like a pretty friendly place when we came off the interstate,” she said. Then she and her husband headed out to the parking lot. They talked a couple minutes, then stopped before turning back on to Main Street.

She handed me a check for $100.

She and her husband both smiled as they drove off and waved.

Generosity tour.

I’m Rick Brooks, and that’s my Perspective.

Rick Brooks retired after 26 years as an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Co-founder of the Little Free Library movement, Rick now lives in Princeton, Illinois and runs Midwest Partners, a civic engagement group.