It’s the little things. Can you remember the last time a stranger did something nice for you, or for someone else near you? Held a door open? Let you have the parking spot you both arrived at simultaneously? Let you exit a driveway onto a busy street? Stopped so you could cross a street or a parking lot? Gave you their shopping cart when they were finished? Picked up something you dropped? Handed you a plastic bag in the produce section as you stood waiting to be able to reach one? Let you merge in heavy traffic?
I’m sure we all do little things, now and then, just to be nice, either for strangers, or for people we know and love. I think this is a natural tendency of the human spirit. And we often do these little things without expectation of acknowledgement; we do them because it makes us feel good to do something nice for others. We also perform these tiny acts of kindness without expectation that others will, in turn, perform tiny acts of kindness. We may wish they would put the shopping cart in the cart corral instead of leaving it in the very middle of the last available parking spot in the lot, but that’s usually just frustration speaking.
Have you ever been in a “kindness war” with someone? I was with my son today, we went to a food truck festival and after stuffing ourselves with all kinds of delectables, headed to the AT&T phone store for the third time in as many weeks. Upon reaching the door, I could see a man and his son approaching the double doors from the other side, about to exit. My son grabbed the door on the right, I reached for the door on the left; we were both intent on holding the door open for the man and his son to exit. They in turn both reached, each for one of the doors, so we all four were grabbing and tugging and trying to hold the doors open for one another! Tiny acts of kindness gone crazy!
There are a lot of really nice people out there, trying to make a positive difference in the world, one tiny act at a time. I’m one of them. I may curse at and verbally reprimand everyone on the road, pretty much all the time, from the cocooned privacy of my car, a weakness of mine, but I let people merge when they need to merge, I let people exit from driveways into crowded streets, and I will sometimes let someone else have a parking place if we’ve arrived at one at the same time; but here, its all about the blinker. I don’t always receive similar treatment from other drivers, but I always acknowledge it with a wave and a smile when I do. I hope this makes up for my recent discovery, one I made after driving in New Jersey and New York a bit over the past few years; the horn. I have discovered the horn on my car and have become quite fond of it. I use it like punctuation with the litany of obscenities I am uttering at other drivers, as I smile and wave and allow them to merge. I’m sure they just think I’m singing along with my Pandora station. Again, I’m admitting a weakness here, perhaps an area requiring some effort, some evolution. But, the tiny acts of kindness, I hope, keep me in a more positive karma position than negative, at least on the roadway.
Everywhere else, being everywhere outside of my car, I find my thoughts and actions align. I am kind not just in deed, but also in thought. I’m being nice and being nice, no cursing, no obscenities, no honking.
I was at Target the other day. I’m at Target almost every day. It just happens. Lucky for me, Whole Foods and Target are in the same parking lot in the town I’ve just moved to, and one block from my gym! So, I was in Target, I did a good deed, first, by dropping off an old cell phone, some ink cartridges and some plastic shopping bags in the recycle bins they have at the front of the store. I dropped my wine bottle corks off at the recycle bin in Whole Foods. Earth! Be happy! After dropping my discards into each of the appropriate receptacles, I went about picking up the one or two items I needed at Target, and the other five or six I didn’t have on my list. I had my few items in one of those hand baskets; I find I buy less than if I use a big, old cart. I can carry an impressive amount of weight, though, and can get about 25 plastic Target carrier bags worth of stuff into one of those baskets. I have been known, on occasion, after growing weary from carrying an overburdened basket, to just hoist it into a cart and continue shopping. I have also been known to place the overladen basket on the floor and scoot it along in the check out line with my feet, until I reach the conveyor and can unload it enough to lift it again. This particular day, my basket was pretty empty and I was swinging it along as I walked. As I approached an open check out stand, I saw a lady with quite a few items in a full size cart kind of speed up so as to arrive at the check out before me. If I’d been in my car I probably would’ve muttered something not very nice. I may even have honked, just to make sure I knew what she was up to. But, instead, I slowed my stride ever so slightly, letting her push her cart to the check out stand with some dignity, preventing her from having to actually break into a jog in order to beat me. I coolly arrived a second or two after her and unloaded my six or seven items onto the conveyor. The lady commented to the cashier, with a smile and a nod in my direction, “this nice lady let me go ahead of her even though she only had a few items in her basket.” Busted. No. Acknowledged! And for some reason, this totally made my day! Thanks for noticing! A tiny act of kindness acknowledged is a tiny act of kindness returned.