RAOK And How To Give Away An Umbrella

RAOK And How To Give Away An Umbrella

Last week my daughter caught her regular train to university under a steel grey sky. When she got off at Redfern it was pouring. Facing a 20 minute walk in torrential rain she realised she'd left her umbrella at home.

Resolutely she set off only to be touched on the shoulder. Another girl, a total stranger, with a massive golf umbrella willingly shared her protection from the elements and the two laughed their way to class.

Miss19 shared the experience on our family WhatsApp conversation, and concluded: “Now I just have to find someone to share their umbrella with me on my way back.”

My response was to suggest she find a convenience store, buy an umbrella, then pay it forward. Give it to a total stranger who needs it. Yes, I know that she's a poor student, but $7 for an umbrella is about the same as a couple of coffees. Sacrificing a coffee (or beer) is a pretty small price to practice generosity and grace.

“Your wealth is determined by what you give, not what you keep. The truly wealthy give freely in the knowledge that there is always more to wealth to grow.”

The following day I rode into the city for an early morning breakfast under a steel grey sky. After breakfast I walked to my next meeting in, you guessed it, torrential rain. I too didn't have an umbrella, and had left my raincoat (bike waterproofs) in my bike top box. So I popped the City Convenience on Harrington Street and bought an umbrella.

Doesn't the universe have an ironic sense of humour to encourage you to practice what you preach. 🙂

On my way back to my bike I tried to give away my umbrella.


To no avail.

The first attempt was to a tourist couple. At least I think they were tourists. Also a couple. They were speaking a foreign language, one of the Romance languages, Portugese perhaps. Looking forlonly at a map on one of their phones. Dripping wet. I offered them my umbrella, to which they just smiled, shook their heads, and returned to their navigation.

Secondly, I noticed a young woman clip-clopping in stillettos, holding a plastic shopping bag filled with books over her head. I had to hurry to catch up to her. “Excuse me,” I called, “Would you like my umbrella?”

“What,” she looked around harriedly, “er, no.” And she dashed off. Damn. She really needed it.

Finally, I was just about back at my bike. The rain had dialled up the intensity to tropical downpour, and a businessman was running, sans jacket with his briefcase clutched to his chest.

Determined to help, I reached out with the umbrella, “Hi, I'm about to jump on my bike and really don't need this umbrella anymore. You look like you could do with one. Would you like it?”

He smiled and replied, “Thanks, but my office is just across the road. I'm a fashion designer and have spare clothes there.” Which is a great strategy for being caught out in the rain.

Just not for accepting a favour.

So now I have a spare umbrella in my topbox and if anyone is in Sydney and needs one, reach out.

Seems giving away an umbrella and performing a practical Random Act of Kindness is much harder than I thought.


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