Since I’m often grumbling, I thought it would be a good idea to look on the bright side for a change … so I looked and looked and kept looking for a ray of hope, for a reason to be optimistic about the future of this great country.
For starters, I haven’t been dragged off a plane recently, I haven’t been dragged out of a bar, and I haven’t even been dragged out of bed when I’ve overslept. Plus, the interest rate on my passbook savings account may increase from 0% to .5%. And for Easter, my family called a 24-hour ceasefire in the war about politics. I’m also hopeful that Kim Jong-un, the killer despot of North Korea, may join a therapy group and change his evil ways. No doubt about it, being optimistic is challenging.
Then, something happened that gave me hope for humanity, and it had nothing to do with United Airlines, North Korea or U.S. politics. I experienced a very small act of kindness and came to believe, like Isaac Bashevis Singer, that “kindness is everything in life.”
I was driving out of the train station parking lot, but long lines of traffic were coming from both directions, and no one would stop for me. All the while, I was muttering and cursing under my breath and above my breath until suddenly, someone in a beat-up Subaru stopped to let me get across. It was a teenage girl with a nose ring and pastel hair.
(I regret any complaining I ever did about members of the Millennial Generation. Today I love them all, my own included.)
I was so overwhelmed by this small act of kindness that I waved to thank the girl and wondered what I could do in return — pay for her college education, buy her a new Subaru or maybe have her hair dyed a brighter shade of pink? You see, kindness makes you want to be kind in return, and it gives you a good feeling about being part of the human race. (In the end, I said a prayer for her and her family.)
I’m convinced that her parents raised her right. She probably learned to say “please” and “thank you,” and “God bless you” when someone sneezed. She probably held the door for old people, babysat youngsters and gave a buck to panhandlers. She probably performed all those acts of courtesy that we seldom see anymore.
Rudeness is so rampant that a simple act of kindness took me by surprise. What has the world come to when kindness is out of the ordinary and not ordinary? Maybe I’m jaded from walking the streets of New York too long, especially at rush hour in Grand Central, which is like survival of the fittest. If you fall down, people will probably throw a tarp on top of you and walk over you.
As Plato said, “Be kind because everyone is having a really hard time,” which leads me to believe he once lived in Manhattan.
Sad to say, there are people who take kind acts for granted, not to mention people who think they’re owed them. How many times have you held the door for someone, who paraded through without so much as a thankful grunt, as if you were their personal servant?
The wonderful thing, though, is that kindness is contagious. It has a magnificent ripple effect. After this young woman held up traffic to let me pass, I wanted to be kind to someone else — not for the sake of pretense or reward but as a repayment for the good deed I had received.
It’s like that. From a good deed, a kind word, a little compassion, big things will happen, and you may not realize the full extent of their power and influence until the next life.
We live in troubled times when people are at one another’s throats over politics, money and many other issues. There’s a lot of anger in the land, and it brings out the worst in us.
I’ve always believed that politics won’t cure what ails America, regardless of who is in office. Change has to come one person at a time, one kind act at a time, and we’ll never succeed if we can’t learn to live with people who have different views and beliefs. Start small. One kind act a day.
As Desmond Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”