Not long ago I was a very early bird and had purchased groceries at a big store in the Twin Cities. I pushed my cart out to the car, and unloaded the groceries into the trunk. I got inside, started the car and was prepared to drive away. Suddenly someone was rapping on the passenger side window of the car. I rolled down that window, and the man leaned in and said, "You left your purse in the grocery cart!"

Oh, my. I quickly shut off the engine and got out. Usually I would, of course, return the cart to the "cart parking" location before getting into the car, because like most people, it is irritating to have to dodge empty shopping carts sitting willy-nilly around a parking lot. But I must have been distracted this time for some reason (maybe it was too early), because I had left it sitting right where I had emptied it, at the back of my car. It was out of the sight-line from the driver's seat, but that wouldn't have made any difference, because I usually park so I can pull forward instead of having to back out. I have always felt that is safer.

Of course I profusely thanked the man. I realized that I could have been miles away before I discovered my folly, because the car keys had been in my pocket; I wouldn't have looked for my purse until I needed it for something else. And that could have been a good long while.

The man's response was very casual and low-key. He modestly said something like, "I try to do at least one Good Samaritan act every day!" My response was that he certainly had done a big one that morning. Because it was very early, and he seemed in no big rush and neither was I, we talked about that a little bit. He indicated that he had found that is just a good rule to live by, and it always makes him feel good. I was pretty impressed that someone had found a way to bring joy into his life - and certainly into others' - in what is really a very simple and straightforward manner.

That isn't the first time a stranger has done something great for me and I don't always know who did it. I used to like to do whatever shopping I needed to do in the summer on holidays, such as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. That's when everyone else is on a picnic or visiting families, and so the big shopping centers are pretty empty.

When I lived in the city, my baby car was my summer vehicle for everything, because then I did not live on a gravel road. And I always try to park far out in any lot, away from other cars. It saves on door "dings" that happen so often in crowded parking lots. Obviously I do like to baby that baby car.

On this particular holiday, I had parked on a side of the mall that I knew others did not frequent. When I went inside my car was the only one in the lot, which is the way I like it. I did my business, and when I got to the outside door to return to my car, I discovered that while I was inside, a summer storm had blown in and it was pouring down rain. I was sick because, of course, the top was down on my convertible. Another way I baby the car is that the top never needs to be up because it never goes outside of the garage if I think I am going to encounter bad weather.

However, wonder of all wonders, when I caught sight of my baby sitting out there, still the only car in that lot, the top was up! Some Good Samaritan had come by and taken the trouble to put it up, not an easy task on that car. Obviously the person knew what s/he was doing, because all the snaps and hooks were attached the way they should be, and it takes practice to get it right. And because it was dry inside, the person had obviously done it just before it started to rain. I decided that thoughtful individual must also have a "baby" of his/her own!

How in the world does anyone pay back these good deeds? I could have offered money to the man that pointed out my purse sitting in the shopping cart; it did cross my mind. But somehow it seemed as if it would be degrading him, as if I thought he did it in hopes of a cash reward. And the person who saved my car from being full of water was nowhere to be seen.

The only way to "pay back" is to pass it on, which I do every chance that I have. More than once, when I have spotted military personnel in uniform eating in the same restaurant as me, I have anonymously paid for their meals by making an arrangement with the wait staff. I do keep an eye out for opportunities.

I once heard someone criticize someone else who had done a good deed, saying it had just been done for selfish reasons. It doesn't make any difference to me why a person helps someone, just that it helps the other one out in some way.

I admit that doing good deeds does make me feel good, and maybe that is selfish, but that's OK. And if "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," surely at least one Good Samaritan act per day accomplishes, at the minimum, what an apple is supposed to do.