Last week was challenging. I could not shake a mood that can only be described as Eeyore-ish and felt trapped. The weather had some influence. On more than one day I told the dog that it was too cold, there would be no walk around the neighborhood. There were really no errands to run (and did I say it was too cold to go outside?) and the only news on any of my submissions, was either a no or simply the sound of crickets. By Friday the weather had eased a bit and I had some errands that could no longer be put off. Though I was not in a social mood, I really needed to get out and around people.
I was in no particular rush, but noticed that others were. Without realizing it, I had chosen the lunch hour to go out and there are an amazing number of people shopping at lunchtime the last workday before Valentine’s Day. I dodged shopping carts flying around aisles while I meandered through Target, collecting the few items I needed. In front of me at the cashier was a woman with two young children. After she paid, she was talking with the older of the two (about whether they would get a snack and what it would be) and had not yet moved the stroller away from the register. Since I had only a few things, the cashier rang up my order and she was still there, right next to the register which is where I needed to be in order to pay for my items. I saw his agitation, but since there was no one behind me, waved to him that it was okay. She did then turn and see me, apologizing. I told her it was fine, then paid and went on my way.
At my next couple stops, I encountered an unusual amount of parking lot traffic and saw others getting impatient, mostly due to lines and register issues. I was in no rush, so I simply stayed out of the way of those who were rushing and tried to express my patience with those who were flustered, like the woman who was having a difficult time finding a parking space and then making the turn into it, thereby holding up traffic. The occupants of some cars developed snarly faces, but there was nothing I could do to hurry things along, even if I was inclined to do so. Flustered people usually take even longer to do things, so I waited, and smiled. Then I was on my way.
This weekend I saw a post that talked about Random Acts of Kindness Week. While I didn’t look at my shipping trips as acts of kindness (and I question the validity of “random” acts if one is going to then tell the world about it), I remembered that I had in fact been kind. In thinking about it, I realized how being patient helped me. I could have sighed and huffed, and complained about lines and people not being aware of others, but then I would have gotten cranky and the trip would have been unpleasant. Being patient didn’t cost me anything and being anything other than patient would not have changed the circumstances at all.
I am what I call a “chronic volunteer.” I think my family will agree. I started volunteering at age 12, as part of a Confirmation project, and never stopped. I am not rich and unless I win the lottery (unlikely, given that I rarely play) I don’t expect I ever will be. So, forming charitable foundations is not likely to be in my future. Rather than giving money, I give time. It makes me feel like I am making a contribution, to making the world a better place (and no, I was not a Girl Scout as a child). Yes, there are benefits to volunteering, such as learning skills, which can then be added to a resume, or the possibility of scholarships or other awards. None of these have motivated me, though I have not been above touting these perks when trying to convince others to join me in a mission.
Today I see that it is Random Acts of Kindness Day. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit, has ideas to get people started and is recruiting RAKtivists, what they call “kindness ambassadors.” In addition to a number of ideas to spread kindness, their website also offers inspirational quotes and stories, as well as curriculum and resources for those working with groups to promote kindness (which can also translate into improved emotional and mental health). Although, as I already mentioned, I am not fond of the idea of bragging about being kind, the website points out that sharing your stories can help inspire others to be kind, starting a ripple effect. This is something I will have to keep in mind.
I understand this, but wonder if we can just be more public with our acts of kindness to begin with, like an instance I witnessed several years ago. I was in line at the grocery store with two women in front of me. Not that it is relevant, but the first woman was younger than I and the second, older. As the first woman paid for her order and gathered her things, she turned to the woman behind her and handed her the bouquet of flowers she had just purchased, indicating they were for her (it was clear that these two women were strangers). The older woman was flustered, and protested, but the younger woman insisted, saying that she made a point of regularly purchasing flowers to brighten someone else’s day. There was a gracious “thank you,” and the first woman was on her way out the door. This whole exchange took a matter of minutes and was quiet and subtle, but those in the immediate area were aware of it and touched. It brightened the mood for us all.
This is a sweet example, but it doesn’t take much to be kind, every day. Those of us who have been gifted with height have an obvious advantage in many stores. I try to be aware of my surroundings and notice if people are struggling to reach things. Often I am asked for help; sometimes I just notice and give it. In recent years I have become more aware of how challenging it is to not be able to do things for oneself and having to rely on others. Asking for help is difficult, helping (or at least offering to help) before someone asks is not. Is this sort of kindness something to be celebrated? Personally I think not, but it is something we should do anyway.
So today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Do something nice today, but not just today. A check of the news shows too many people not being nice. There is power in people working together for the common good. Let’s work together to make the world a kinder place.