Acts of kindness
Last updated 11/30/2021 at Noon
A shockingly large number of my friends and family have opted for a “news blackout” in recent months. These are people who ordinarily pride themselves on being well-informed. They’re not being lazy or negligent: They have come to recognize that the constant drumbeat of doom and the cacophony of contention that they pick up from cable TV news and the internet is bad for their mental health.
Every one of them reports feeling better for the detox.
It’s hard these days to know what to do to counteract the level of negativity that confronts us. Putting down the TV remote and pushing away from the keyboard is a good start, but moving against the tide requires action. And our social, economic and political “issues” seem so big and overwhelming that it’s hard to know what to do and where to start.
I had an exchange with a reader this week that points to action that is readily within everybody’s grasp. This reader wanted to remain anonymous, because he wants to call for action, but not call attention to himself. So, I’ll share a bit of what he told me:
“Several years ago as I reached the register at Ray’s, the cashier said, ‘It’s taken care of.’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, “The young man who just left took care of your groceries.” I am still trying to digest that kindness, and it has changed me.
“Last week in Bend, I was at a service establishment which offers discounts to veterans, and when I checked in, I mentioned that I was a veteran. She told me that the discount was only on new purchases, not services, but she would check. She returned and said on my $88 service, “It’s on us.” Was I shocked by this kindness? You bet. I immediately went to Olive Garden and for my lunch gave the struggling waitress a $20 tip. You should have seen the shock and happiness on her face. One good turn deserves another.”
The reader described a young man with a dog busking in Sisters. He contributed some cash, and the musician said, “Thank you so much because now I can take care of my sick dog.”
“The next day I returned and took him to Sisters Vet and had his dog fully checked out and vaccinated. Afterward as he set out to thumb a ride to who knows where, he said, ‘I don’t know how to thank you — can I give you a hug?’ which was the best he felt he could give me. I turned down the hug but told him I understood that he was trying to express his thanks in the highest manner he could to a random stranger.”
“At the Sisters Chevron one time I came in and got my propane tank filled, only to realize that I had left my wallet at home. The attendant said, ‘No problem.’ He did not ask me to come back and pay, he just was understanding and kind. I subsequently returned, paid for my propane and gave him something for his kindness — which he refused to accept.”
The Christmas season encourages us to give — and reminds us that there is much joy in giving. Maybe more than there is in receiving. And some positive action, even on the smallest scale, is an act that pushes back against the weight of events that oppress us, and which are out of our control.
“Why all these stories?” the reader asked. “If you think the beneficiary of these one-on-one random acts of kindness to strangers is the recipients, you are only partly right. The biggest beneficiary is me. Just as that young man at the grocery was unexpectedly kind to me, I find each time I surprise someone with just a little touch of kindness, it makes my whole day better, and each time reminds me of the value of kindness to our fellow human beings. Will you shock a stranger with some kindness today? You will never forget their reaction and how good it makes you feel — I promise