“I didn’t always know what I wanted to do,
but I knew the kind of person I wanted to be.”
— Diane Von Furstenburg
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?
“it’s up to brave hearts, sir, to be patient when things are going badly, as well as being happy when things are going well…For I’ve heard that what they call fortune is a flighty woman who drinks too much, and whats more, she’s blind so she can’t see what she’s doing, and she doesn’t know who she’s knocking over or who she’s raising up.”
I saw this quote on Pinterest the other day and I couldn’t believe the person it was attributed to actually said it. So I looked it up. And I was right. He didn’t. But that’s not the point. Because, really, the point is that it’s written beautifully and made me feel happy in my sometimes doubting skin and allowed me to realize that it’s okay that I stay up too late at night reading books in bed, building a fort around Mumbles’s (ps. I just looked up ‘s or s’s – it’s one of those ones that always haunts me while I write…apparently it’s a heated debate in the world of grammar and usage so I’ll just roll with what feels right) head so the light isn’t in his eyes when he tries to fall asleep, and that I want and need a good, cozy, comfy reading nook in the middle of a library room in my house one day kinda like this one maybe, and that I don’t want to give my books back to a secondhand shop because I want my bookcases, shelves and cupboards (sorry, lady, I can’t give up my closet) and other nooks and crannies in my house packed to the brim with books I’ve read and want to loan to friends or give to my kids one day or read again and again. I hope a lot of people were like me and read the quote on Pinterest and thought “smart bloke…I’d like to read more of that” and looked it up and found the whole thing. Because, like I said: it’s beautiful. If you aren’t one of those people, allow me to make it easy:
“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or if she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
― Rosemarie Urquico
My insides were smiling after reading it again so I kept searching for more information about this woman who is eloquent and relatable in her writing. I learned (perhaps not completely correctly, but it made sense) that she may have written the essay in response to this one, which I took to mean much about the same, although it gets you to that point in a completely different way. That way is about doing it all wrong and missing then regretting the whole point of love and adventure and romance and playing and passion and pursuits. About life. I found both refreshing and entertaining and hope you did too. And, I hope you’re a girl who reads. Or writes. Or both. Or, if you’re a boy, that you’re searching for the ones that do.