It’s so easy to be kind. To share a warm smile. To send a handwritten note. To give a compliment or a gift or a helping hand.
And oh! what a lasting impression just a small comment or gesture or act of kindness can leave!
* * *
I was in the grocery store a few weeks back, wearing my beloved grey belted wool coat.
I’d just placed a package of bean sprouts in my basket and was looking longingly over the display of artichokes. That’s when I felt a hand on my waist.
“This is such a lovely coat,” came a sandpapery voice from behind me. “But the belt is twisted.”
I looked over my shoulder at an older woman – late seventies, grandmotherly – as she gently untwisted the belt so it lay flat on my back.
“There,” she said, smiling up at me as she patted me on the arm. Her dark eyes sparkled as she shuffled off among the oranges.
That small gesture made me warm through and through.
I don’t know why it affected me so much. Perhaps it reminded me of being a child and having my mother smooth my hair or straighten my shirt. Perhaps it was just being touched in a small, gentle way. Perhaps it was that she went out of her way to make my life a little less messy – with no hassle and no expectation of remuneration.
* * *
A year or so ago, I read somewhere about people doing random acts of kindness. (I think it was on Jen’s blog? Jen? Am I hallucinating?)
Jen would buy Target gift cards (this sounds like the kind of thing Jen would do, so I’m going to leave it) or the like and leave them on random cars.
I did this exactly once – put $10 on a gift card rather than buying a $10 tube of mascara – and left it on the windshield of a car.
Who knows what the recipient thought? Maybe s/he thought it was stupid. Maybe s/he thought it was a delightful surprise. (My husband thought I was a weirdo.) Maybe s/he didn’t see the envelope under the wiper and it flew off into a ditch somewhere.
But I don’t even care.
It made me feel SO GOOD.
Why oh why don’t I do it more often?
* * *
Compliments are nice, too.
When I last saw my hairdresser – in early December – I asked her a serious question:
“Is my hair too long?”
Yes, I love my hair long. My husband loves it long. But I know that sometimes long hair can look lank and stringy.
She tilted her head and regarded me closely.
“No. I think tall, thin people like you can pull it off,” she said. “And anyway, we’ll give you layers to add movement.”
Me, a tall, thin person?
It made me glow all the way home.
Later, in early January, I was once again at the grocery store.
I was getting fish for dinner. The sweet woman behind the counter said, “Wow, your lashes are so long! Are they real?”
I was surprised and delighted. My lashes are stubby and nearly invisible, so I am a mascara fanatic. It’s the one makeup item I never leave home without.
(“What did you tell her?” my husband asked. “That they’re real!” I said. “Well, did you tell her about all the mascara you’re wearing?” “Mascara doesn’t make my lashes less real!”)
* * *
A few years ago, my husband and I were in my hometown visiting my parents.
It gets bitterly cold there in winter. The day in question, the temperature was hovering around seventeen below zero.
We were stopped at a stoplight when we saw a young man coming down the hill across the street.
He was walking. It was clear from his gait that he was drunk or otherwise impaired. And he wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing above the waist.
The light changed and a pickup a few cars in front of us pulled up next to the young man.
The driver took off his own coat and handed it out the window to the shirtless guy.
* * *
Last year, I was having a tough time.
Who knows why.
But one day, when my husband collected the mail, he tossed an envelope my way. It was from an unfamiliar address.
Inside was a sheet of stickers – glittery cats – and a recipe for gourmet macaroni and cheese.
Turns out it was from Daisy.
She’d gotten the glitter cat stickers as a random act of kindness from her husband’s coworkers. And then she passed them on to me.
I still have them.
I take them out and look at them and they make me smile every time.
And while I haven’t made the mac and cheese yet, I drool over the recipe every so often. (Mac and cheese is fattening. But drooling over mac and cheese burns calories.)
* * *
I loved that resolution. All too often, I think, “Oh, so-and-so would like this!” and then, at the last minute, I chicken out and never let that person know I was thinking of him or her.
Now, I know it’s impractical to buy things all the time. That could get just plain expensive. But when I’m ordering a little something on Amazon and I see something that I feel like so-and-so could use, I’m trying to be better about ordering it without a second thought. Without worrying that the recipient won’t like it… Or that s/he will feel obligated to return the favor… Or that it will come across as stupid or weird…
And I’m trying to be better about just being kind in general. Smiling brightly and saying hello to people when I come across them, rather than averting my eyes and scuttling past. Asking people if they need help, when before I would fret over whether I’d be intruding. Giving compliments – even to strangers.
I don’t do it every time. I don’t do it enough. But I do it more, and I think that counts for something.
* * *
The delivery guy gave a sharp rap on the door and then disappeared down the hallway, leaving two packages against the wall.
One, I was eagerly anticipating: a birthday gift from my parents that my mother had said was on the way. (I didn’t know what the gift was, just that it was coming. Turns out it was chocolates from the very chocolate boutique that provided chocolates for my wedding. They are amazingly delicious. You will not be surprised to learn that they have already been thoroughly plundered.)
And the other was a fabulous surprise: a tall box of flowers! Inside was a beautiful bouquet of irises and lilies from a girl who’s gone from blogger-I-admire to real-life friend.
I’m not ashamed to say that I blubbered as I cut the cellophane off of the bouquet and sobbed as I filled the accompanying vase with water and wiped tears off my cheeks as I bit through a dark chocolate shell.
That’s what kindness can do.
Whether it’s from your loving parents… or a brand-new friend… or even a generous stranger…
It can knock you off your feet.