The other day I finally got to get out on my motorcycle and had to stop at the bank drive-through to cash a small check. The total was $54.99, so the teller asked me if I had a penny so she could give me just bills. I have lots of change in my truck, but not on the bike. I hear a voice from the vehicle in the lane next to me saying, “I have a penny!” The driver tossed it to me, and I didn’t have to have all that change jingling around in my pocket. I don’t know why, but this little act of kindness made me so happy! I have told dozens of people about it, and now you know. That penny meant nothing to either one of us, and the interchange did nothing to change the world. But I couldn’t stop smiling about it.
It reminded me of an interview I heard once with Nora Ephron, the actress, writer, and director (Sleepless in Seattle). She was talking about a revelation she had once in a restaurant. She was figuring out the tip and, as happens so often, was getting frustrated with the math. She decided at that moment that, as long as the service was good, she would figure out a 20% tip and add a dollar. She was a very successful person, and she said in the interview that a dollar really meant nothing to her, but to the server, it might mean a lot. It was only a dollar, but it would tell these hard-working people that they had done a great job, and it had been noticed. I decided to start doing the same thing. From the surprised responses I have gotten over the years, it is often noticed. Little acts of kindness can go a long way.
I don’t always succeed, but I have tried to maintain this kind of behavior since then. I let people go in front of me – I hold the door for everyone – I smile at people as I pass them on the street (they probably think there’s something wrong with me!) None of this is paving the way for me to be named a saint by Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama, but it makes me happy and costs me nothing. It feels like – and this may not be true – there are a lot more angry people than ever before. I see it in the way people drive, or how they fight over parking spaces. I witness it in political dialogue and on social media. Too many angry people treating each other badly. Our little acts of kindness won’t bring about world peace, but they might bring peace to someone’s world. You may be one of those people who does this kind of thing naturally, but me? I have to work at it and remember to choose kindness over indifference, or even anger. And if someone treats us with anger, think of offering a little act of kindness to them; it’s one way to turn the other cheek.
Sometimes I am rushing around and miss out on opportunities to treat others the way I would love for them to treat me; if you have been at the end of that, I am sorry. I hope you would give me a little grace the way I try – try – to do for others. Nobody gets it right all the time, but like Dorry said, “Keep on swimming!” The world needs more kindness. Who will do if not us?
Prayer – Thank You God for making us in Your image, and forgive us when we don’t treat others in the same way. We are reminded that You want more peace and less war; more kindness and less anger. Help us to be part of the solution, not the problem. Amen.
Today’s art is from a “Kindness Project for Elementary Students.” The website no longer functions.