The Thrill of Random Acts of Kindness
BY STEVE NUBIE
Tomorrow, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day. What can we all do to make that happen?
I live in a suburb west of Chicago. We get lots of snow in the winter. I have a snow blower as a result. One day, while snow blowing our driveway I noticed that our neighbor’s driveway and walk was still topped with snow. She was elderly and lived alone. When I finished our driveway and walk I wheeled over to her house and started snow blowing her driveway and walk. She came out half-way through and waved me towards her house.
She said, “I don’t know who you are and don’t have any money to pay you.” I said, “That’s okay. I’m out and about and got plenty of gas and you live really close.”
She knew who I was when I pulled my hood from my face, and she smiled. When I got done she waved me back in and she had made coffee and the most wonderful blueberry pasty’s. We talked and laughed and I brought a pasty home to my wife and it was a very good day. It was a day defined by a random act of kindness.
Random Acts of Kindness defined
This shouldn’t be too hard. It’s about being nice to each other without the expectation of benefit or reward. We simply treat each other well. A lot has to do with our financial position, but it’s not always that complicated.
The simple fact of the matter is we appreciate when people make some small effort to help us. And guess what, there are health benefits too.
According to a study done by the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of North Carolina the happiness ratings for people doing things for others resulted in lower inflammatory markers which is a common precursor to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
To put it bluntly, If you’re nice your body will treat you nice and you’ll not only live longer, but happier and heathier. That’s a good telegram for the mood in our country today.
I’ve worked in Chicago for years. One day I was walking into a 7-11 and a homeless man was sitting on the street in front of the store. He said, “Please, sir. Can you buy me some food?” I said, “Sure.” I got him a roast beef sandwich, a pear and banana and some orange juice and bottle of water. I threw the change in the bag which was about two and a half bucks. I handed him the bag and said, “Take care of yourself.”
What goes around, comes around
Three months later I was sitting on a park bench at lunchtime. It was the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. A well-dressed black man sat next to me and said, “Do you remember me?’ I was a bit concerned at first but politely said, “No.” He said, “You were kind enough to buy me some food a few months ago, and I owe you some money. I’m working now and things are better and you helped me when no one else would.”
He reached into his wallet and pulled out the receipt from 7-11 and gave me $15.67. He said, “That includes the change you threw in the bag.”
I wanted to say no but smiled, nodded and walked away.
Flash forward to 5 hours later
I had finished my day at the office and was doing my usual walk to the train station. Over the Wacker Street bridge over the Chicago river a young mother and her child were sitting with a cardboard sign. It said, “We’re hungry and scared and can you help?” I stopped and they both held up dirty Styrofoam cups hoping for a few coins.
I reached into my pocket and took out $15 and sixty-seven cents. I said, “Someone gave this to me today and I think it’s for you.” They had tears in their eyes and so did I.
It was a comforting ride home on the train that night and I slept extremely well. My hope is that any continuing random act of kindness will give me the same, calm assurance.