Random Acts of Kindness
Narcissus 'Mon Cherie'
Many times in my life people have done exceptionally kind things for me. A few were from people I didn’t know, such as the time when a person handed me a dollar bill when I was short on cash at a checkout line. Some kindnesses came from people I knew; for instance, a friend brought me a box of groceries when I was in college after a string of bad luck left me short on cash. These actions always brought back my faith in our species, that we aren’t just war-mongering, greedy or selfish people, but caring and kind human beings. This was years before the movie “Pay It Forward” debuted. I particularly remember a discussion with a group of gardeners after seeing that movie. One person talked about buying daffodil bulbs and planting them in her neighbor’s garden. She never took credit as the perpetrator of the unexpected gift, but she did remark how fun it was to give anonymously.
Today while running errands in town, I thought it would be fun to give a small act of kindness to someone I didn’t know. My spontaneous thought came just as I pulled up to a favorite drive-through espresso stand and ordered my usual drink. When it was time to pay, I decided to buy a latte for the next person who came through the stand. Since no one was behind me at the time, I have no idea who received it; this made the action even better, since the recipient wouldn’t know who gave the gift. I hope it was a pleasant surprise and their day improved because of it.
Possibly because it’s days away from the beginning of May, the thought came up. May Day is the holiday with a tradition of using flowers to commit acts of kindness. As a child, I enjoyed picking flowers or making a posy during class at school. We would leave them on the neighbor’s porches, and ring the doorbell. Quickly we ran away and hid before they could reach their door, since it was traditional not to let your neighbors know it was you that bestowed the gift.
In Hawaii, May Day is called Lei Day. One of my fondest memories comes from the year a friend and I picked grocery bags full of plumeria blossoms that grew in our gardens. We strung the flowers into leis. We put the many leis around our necks and ran around the neighborhood hanging one on each of the doorknobs. And, just as I did as a child, we rang their doorbells and ran quickly away, giggling like young schoolgirls.
All of us can practice random acts of kindness from time to time. I would like to do it more often. I don’t think it needs to be a huge act; sometimes something simple like being aware that a person is struggling and helping them is all that’s necessary. We can open doors for a person laden down with packages, or give someone a smile without expecting one in return. It’s fun to do and I believe we all benefit, not only receivers but as givers. It’s heartfelt, and especially important at times when we’re bombarded with a large amount of negative news.