I’m feeling very pleasantly overwhelmed by acts of caring and kindness lately. Last week I saw this photo of a man peddling a bicycle to generate electricity for others to use and this one showing how residents in New York whose power had been restored were caring enough to put out extension cords so neighborhood passersby could plug in their phones to recharge for free — something we take for granted each day but what probably meant the world to those in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when many had lost power or were displaced due to the storm’s damage. It gives me chills just writing about it.
It’s truly inspiring to witness strangers coming together to extend uncommon courtesies, especially after such devastating disasters and tragedies. And, I think it’s almost faith-reviving to witness such kindness, such care for others when we’re facing such troubled times. With the world we live in often focused on depravity — we don’t have enough time or money or possessions — that love and happiness can conquer if we share by giving our time and money, help and attention in small but drastic ways.
This past Sunday while sitting in traffic on a freeway off ramp, I was startled to see men getting out of cars. “Oh, great, an accident,” I presumed. (Selfishly, I thought I’d be sitting there forever waiting for them to clear out, not even pondering how frustrating that would be for the people involved if it were actually an accident.) Alerted to the situation unfolding before me, I noticed that these men getting out of five different cars in all lanes of traffic at this red light were all doing so to assist a troubled motorist push his car to a gas station. Wow! How quickly my attitude changed! These men clearly didn’t know one another, they had nothing in common except to be waiting at the same traffic light, yet all felt compelled to hastily get out of their vehicles, to delay getting to where they were headed, all to help this stranger in need. As the light changed and I drove by, the men who had accomplished their task were stranded on the corner, waiting for the drivers of the cars they were in to circl back to retrieve them but you know what? They didn’t seem angry; in fact, a few were smiling, and probably hoping proudly that they had made a positive difference in that troubled motorist’s day. I know that’s what I was thinking. And I know that others witnessed the same small miracle I did in this moment.
In a similar story, I had the same feeling of gratitude and appreciation when my mom told me recently of a pair of young men who had stopped to help my father whose car had died at a stoplight near their home. I can only imagine my father — a disabled veteran — not able to push his truck, sitting, waiting in the truck or standing beside it, using his cell phone to arrange for AAA or a tow truck, and how unsafe that would be if other drivers were not paying attention to him in distress. But, these two young men (my dad say they were probably around 18 or 20) saw my father in need and took time out of their days to pull over and come to his aide. I definitely said a prayer of thanks for these two chilvalrous guys and the parents who raised them. My dad said he gave them $5 for a soda pop and then later regretted not giving them more because “$5 can hardly buy you a pop anymore these days, right?” And my heart smiled widely.
And, finally, in telling these stories I’m also reminded of a gentleman who came to my rescue when I ran out of gas. I know. I was humiliated, embarrassed, and panicked. How did I let this happen?! I’m such a spaz. He was wearing a suit, I was in front of Home Depot, not far from a gas station, and I’m pretty sure I accidentally pressed on the brake while he was trying to push. It’s a scary situation for a woman to have motor trouble and he was respectful and kind and offered to help more if he could (Mumbles was on the way, though). And, I’ll also not forget the mother who pulled up beside me with her son in the passenger seat (he couldn’t have been more than 14) who offered her and her son’s help if I needed it — what a lady! And I’m sure that kid won’t forget the example his mom set in stopping to offer help (though he was probably relieved that I kindly declined).
While the situations that lead to these small but extraordinary acts are not always pleasant, it changes my perspective on the world, on the power of compassion and caring that people can have for one another. You may have noticed that I didn’t call these “random acts of kindness” and purposefully so — I don’t think these decisions to act are random. The circumstances in which these opportunities are presented may certainly seem random, but I believe if we only give up a bit of our time and attention to see how we can help those around us, our potential for improving someone else’s day, situation or circumstance is tremendous. They are appreciated far beyond what we may realize and they are not forgotten.
Have you experienced or witnessed any acts of kindness lately?