Apparently, there’s a special week devoted to pouncing on people and doing something nice to them. And since I don’t blog about Valentine’s Day, this seems a suitably sappy substitute.
I learned about this happy event from Steve Schimmrich, who thought he might be mugged but was handed a badly-needed dollar instead. And it got me to thinking about other random acts of kindness, either performed by or performed on me. I’ve been the beneficiary of more random kindness than I dare to believe I deserve. You, my darlings, do me more kindness than I have a right to expect.
You started out strangers, but became my friends, all because you started out by doing something randomly kind: giving a nice comment, or offering advice, or including me among the geobloggers as if I was a really real geoblogger myself. You’ve done me wonders, and I’ll probably never be able to repay your kindnesses back. It’s a good thing there’s such a thing as paying forward.
Complete strangers have swooped down in times of dire need and done things they’d probably laugh off as inconsequential if I tracked them down and thanked them. I’m sure the waiter at Denny’s all those years ago, who made me laugh at one of the darkest times in my existence by presenting a ketchup bottle as if it were expensive champagne, didn’t think he was doing anything particularly meaningful. Just goofing off. He threw me a lifeline, got me one foot up on a climb out of a deep black hole, and all it took was something so silly.
There were the people in Chicago, a whole crowd of them, who gathered round me in a store when I frantically asked after the location of some particular venue, and ensured I knew exactly how to get there in time to see Neil Gaiman and Will Eisner for the first time in my life. They changed my mind about big city downtowns. They made my day.
A thousand other things, big and small, done to a stranger by a stranger, that have kept me from believing humanity is beyond hope.
George sent me a rock hammer. Suzanne performed rescue operations. Cujo invited me to the theatre. Lockwood volunteered for field trip duty. And there have been 10,000 other things, great and small, that you’ve done, things that make me a big squidgy mass of gratefulness and love.
I’ll probably never know most of the things I’ve done. I don’t tend to think of myself as a random kindness person. But I suppose I’ve done a few – there’ve been group photos taken in special spots, which probably count. There was one gentleman who was placing an order with me, who had the most mono of monotones, until I asked him what was wrong. He told me I wouldn’t want to hear his problems. I told him to fire away, if it’d make him feel better, and by the time he finished I was very nearly in tears – he’d had The Worst Year Ever. At the end, he sighed, said he did in fact feel a little better, and his voice gained a bit of animation as we finished getting his business forms ordered. I’ll never forget him.
The point of all this rambling is, stuff like this isn’t hard, and it’s not expensive. A dollar here, a listening ear there, a moment of time to snap a group photo or give directions or elicit a smile. Most of us do these things already. But at least having a week devoted to it means we can actually think about the kindnesses we do. And perhaps we’ll find ways of doing even more. More kindness = a better world. It’s worth aiming for, especially for us cynical bastards who find it too easy to accentuate the negative.
I just want to tell the men something important, here: if you’re swooping down on strange women to do them a kindness, try to avoid doing so if there’s no one else around. We’ve read about too many serial killers, you see. You might offer to help with carrying grocery bags and find yourself maced out of paranoid self-defense. And ladies: random acts of kindness should also be done in public wherever possible. Remember how Ted Bundy lured his victims. And all of us should probably be careful to ensure parents understand what we’re up to if we’re performing a RAK for a child.
Have I mentioned I’m a bit cynical?
Anyway, those caveats in mind, go forth and do good, just as you already do, whether you know it or not.