Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kindness Is Easy (and important). Rock the RAOK!

I have been cut off, tailgated, and whooshed past by more cars in the past two weeks than I have all year long. Everyone is rushing to get somewhere. I read a story about people who were stepping over a man having a heart attack in Target (he died), just to get to a sale. Christmas is supposed to be about kindness, as should everyday be, all year long. Yet somehow, in the process of the holiday rush, people are impatient, and seem to have lost sight of their better side.

It's true that I live a fairly isolated life. I don't socialize in town at all, and even outside of town, my socializing is to a bare minimum. I walk away from drama that other's attempt to create, from gossip, and anything that feels like it might be toxic. My circle is small but valuable. Having little to focus on, outside of my tight circle, makes it so much easier to keep things in perspective, so perhaps my hermit like quality gives me an edge.

While I definitely have my moments (hours, days), I try to remember that I am lucky, that I have a healthy family who loves me and who I love. I keep in mind that my friends are amazing, and that having those few good friends makes a world of difference. Their support is unbreakable, and when I spend time with them, I feel understood and safe.

I like to do good things for others, whenever I am able. Tonight, I got to do something small and fun, and it was appreciated by the bearer of my RAOK (random act of kindness). It was both cheap and easy, so I am hoping that you all will follow my lead and do something nice for someone random, just because.

Every year, I see someone ringing a bell to get money donated to the little red Salvation Army drop box. Each time I see them, I donate a dollar or two, but more importantly (in my mind, at least), I go get them a hot drink and some food. Mostly, people ignore the bell ringers, trying not to make eye contact with them so that they won't have to separate from that dollar that's been crunched up inside their coat pocket for weeks. It's not enough that they are standing outside ringing a bell to raise money for someone else, but then they're ignored to boot. Tonight, I saw a man ringing his bell outside of King's Supermarket. While I picked up food to make tonight's dinner, I got him a cup of coffee (with a little milk and both sugar and Splenda packets on the side), a cup of Chicken Tortilla soup, and a bottle of water. I didn't know if he drank coffee, was a vegetarian, or if he even wanted it, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

When I left the store, I walked over to the man with a five dollar bill and a bag of groceries in one hand, and in the other, the coffee and sugar packets. I asked him to please hold the coffee so that I could use that hand to put the money in the bucket, and then said, "It's coffee for you." He looked up at me, curiously. Next, I handed him the bag with the cup of soup and plastic spoon inside. "Do you eat meat?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, so I said, "Oh good, because I got you some Chicken Tortilla soup." And then I handed him the water, "And some water, too."

He was shocked so to make it less of a big deal I simply said, "I do this every year. Last year, by the time I got out to give the person the food, her shift had ended." I said this as I walked away. I didn't want him to think too much about what I'd done, think that I wanted thanks, or even have him wonder if I wanted something from him. I just wanted him to have something to warm him up, and something to hydrate him. He'd been standing outside ringing a bell for six hours to raise money for the Salvation Army. I was simply paying it forward and offering a gesture of thanks. If we all did that, all year long, I'd bet that we wouldn't (as a country) be in the position we're in today.

Please, if you see someone ringing to raise money, or someone homeless begging on the street, buy them some hot food and something to drink. Just give it to them, smile, say Happy Holidays or whatever, and then walk away.

"There but for the grace of God, go I." - modified from the original by John Bradford (circa 1510 - 1515)

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