I read somewhere that in a little town in Tennessee, a man driving his old truck with its four tires in dismal condition stopped at a roadway diner for a quick meal.
When he returned to his vehicle, he found something on the windshield. It was a receipt for the purchase of four new tires and a note. It said: “I saw you parked at a rest stop and couldn’t help noticing your beat-up tires. Drive down to Al’s Tire Shop a few miles down and present this receipt. He will be happy to install your four brand-new tires. They are all paid for.
“You don’t need to know who I am or look for me to thank me. I am paying it forward. Some day, I hope you will do some random act of kindness for someone, making this gesture of mine all worth it. Enjoy and drive safe. “
Wikipedia defines a random act of kindness as a “nonpremeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness toward the outside world.”
And I think, why nonpremeditated? Why inconsistent? Why can’t kindness be our way of life?
It should be easy. I believe that to reach out and offer a helping hand is our first natural instinct. There is an urge to do what is right. But we don’t always listen. When we see a need, we hesitate. We wait to be asked.
We are careful, scared, locked up in our own narrow world of prejudice and suspicion. We question motives and turn away, afraid to get involved and later be held accountable.
Of course we all remember the story of the Good Samaritan. But we quickly brush it aside, telling ourselves that was in the Bible ages ago, but times have changed.
What a heartless world we have become.
From random to intentional
How random can an act of kindness be? Our act may not be world-changing in and of itself. But it may mean the beginning of someone else’s good day. Let that then be our short-term goal. We can start with that.
Sometimes all it takes is smiling at a stranger. A smile is irresistible. Did you know that? And it is contagious.
If we just stopped being so wrapped up in ourselves and listened closely enough to become aware of what surrounds us, we are sure to find numerous opportunities to fight the culture of indifference that has overtaken our world.
Even if it takes only one smile at a time.
The wonderful thing is that what we give comes back to us. It is all about sowing and reaping. Kindness is like that.
Say good morning to the person standing next to you in an elevator. You may lighten his load, brighten up her day. And it costs you nothing.
Just because a person is not in tears does not mean they have it all together and that life is wonderful. We don’t know what drama he or she is going through. We don’t know what battles they are fighting. We can’t imagine how exhausted and depleted, or how broken they are.
You ask: Why should I, of all in God’s creation, be the one to step out? Why not somebody else? The answer is simple: because you are there. God put you there. Because something stirred in you and said, do it. Help out. Smile. Lend a hand.
Inspirational writer Bonnie Arbon said, “You are a piece of the puzzle of someone else’s life. You may never know where you fit, but others will fill the holes in their lives with pieces of you.”
That is a profound thought. Humbling.
Our ‘to do’ list
Here are simple, easy to do acts guaranteed to bring you more sunshine than you ever thought possible.
Smile. Say please and thank you. Hold the door open for someone. Let them enter or exit ahead of you.
For gadget and Internet users: Put your phone away. Listen. Do not post or share derogatory stories about anyone, political or otherwise. True or not, these create negativity and foment hatred and discontent in the heart of readers, including your own.
When everyone around you is gossiping and defaming someone, be the one to butt in with something nice to say.
Speak highly of someone to her boss.
There is a guy out there giving free haircuts to the homeless. What can you contribute?
In this season of monsoon rains, can you provide an umbrella (or two or more)? Give someone a lift.
Slow down. Let someone cut in when you’re in traffic.
Pay for someone’s cup of coffee or lunch. Leave a generous tip.
Pay the toll for the car behind you.
Thank a teacher for what she does for your child.
Thank the security guard in your building for keeping you safe.
Buy schoolbooks for your helper’s child.
Give someone a flower.
Visit your lolo or lola. We get lonely.
Here’s advice from best-selling author Og Mandino:
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”