A few weeks ago I announced that 2013 was going to be my personal Year Of Kindness and, to that objective, I have been thinking a lot about what kindness means, what it looks like, and how we know if it’s real or not. For many years, the notion of “random acts of kindness” has been trendy in progressive, new-agey schools of thought and, while I certainly encounter daily kindnesses–a door being opened for me, a person who lets you go first in a waiting line or picks up money that you inadvertently drop on the ground and returns it to you–I had not encountered one of those truly unsolicited random act of kindness in my life until last Friday.
I was late for an afternoon meeting and it had just started to snow which always puts people off their driving game. The traffic was slow and lurchy and I ended up spending another five or ten minutes driving around looking for a parking place. I finally found a spot and, fortunately, it was right in front of the place I needed to be but, being in a hurry, I was grabbing this and grabbing that as I tried to get out of the car and, though I had three quarters in my pocket for the parking meter, by the time I was standing in front of the meter, I realized I must have dropped one of them in my car because I only had two. I checked all my pockets again and didn’t find it and was just about ready to get back into my purse to fetch another one when a young man walking down the street approached me.
He stopped right next to me at my meter, reached into his pocket where he fished out a coin. He said “here you go,” slipped the quarter in the slot and turned and walked away as I shouted a surprised “Thank you!” after him. He turned and waved and that was that.
Maybe a quarter for a random stranger is no big deal, but I’ll admit that in my own day-to-day, I’m not always as aware of the world around me and that I’m not always thinking about what I can do to be kinder. I’m not suggesting that we all start paying for each other’s parking meters, but it certainly gave me pause. This person had no reason at all to stop and do that for me and, had he not, no one would have said or thought anything the way they would have had he let a door close in my face or something. It’s important for me to add that this particular young man didn’t “look the part” of the kind of person I’d expect to do something like this and that maybe that was the thing that impacted me the most with regard to kindness, how I view the world and what I expect of others. He was 21 or 21 years old at the most and was dressed, head to toe, like a hip-hop star. In my middle-aged mindset, he seemed like the last person who would stop and put a quarter into someone else’s meter.
I felt good all day after that. I immediately told the person in my meeting what had just happened and have shared the story a few more times since Friday. Now I’m sharing it with you, friends, because I like when life challenges my beliefs and views and urges me to be a better version of myself and this was one of those moments.
TRY THIS WEEK: Rethink what kindness is.