We’ve all seen those ‘random acts of kindness’ news stories on t.v. and on social media, right?
A twenty something waitress gets tip large enough to go on European vacation, her dream trip she’ll never take for whatever reason. Waiter with bad teeth gets $25,000 to have the dental repairs he desperately needs. A man who walks miles and miles to work gets a car because a young man felt that kind of loyalty and dedication needed to be rewarded (and it really did. That man deserves to be an example to everyone about what it means to be serious about your job). It’s as if we live in a world with fairy godmothers just lurking around corners, waiting to fulfill the deepest heart felt wish of every hard working, long suffering, good hearted soul.
Oh, the magic plain old human kindness can work in people’s lives, right? Which makes the world seem like a shiny, wonderful place. YAY, us! We’re so awesome!!
The truth is, it’s not really like that.
These stories make news because they’re so rare.
This morning, I stopped at CVS and while I was paying for the random items I had to get, a young man loaded down with what looked like all of his belongings came in. He made for the back of the store, and the cashier stopped midway through my transaction to call after him to leave his backpack and things up by the register. The guy turned around and said, “I only need to use the bathroom..” but she interrupted him to let him know that it was store policy and that if he wanted to progress to the bathroom, he needed to drop his stuff off up front. Now, I know that shoplifting is an issue, and I certainly understand why the staff of a 24 hour a day operation like the CVS near me would feel safer knowing that homeless people weren’t using the store restrooms for their basic personal hygiene needs.
I also get that when you only have what you can carry, it’s definitely not anything you’re willing to let out of your sight.
However, that guy just nodded, said, “Okay…I’m not going to leave this stuff there.” and walked out, looking pretty embarrassed. The cashier gave me a tight little smile and finished ringing up my gum, vitamins and mouthwash (I had coupons) without another word, except to tell me I had MORE coupons to use next time. When I went outside, the homeless guy.backpacker was gone. I wanted to point him in the direction of the local hospital, which was down the road, where he could have used the bathroom without letting go of his things first.
How difficult would it have been to let the guy use the bathroom? Not very.
I had occasion to speak to someone else, who after some conversation about a difficult subject, launched into the list of the horrible things that they’d seen/been through as a justification for a truly crappy, judgmental attitude and behavior on their part, and then followed that up with a list of how ‘Christian’ they were – all the good things they’ve done for the world. It’s mind boggling to me, I guess, to think that people don’t see the chasm of disconnect between what they’re consciously doing and how they see themselves. You can’t see yourself as a giving, caring Christian while you’re being judgmental, stubborn and petty. It’s a contradiction in every sense. Of course, pointing that out to them isn’t very helpful, because once someone sees themselves as justified and can judge others, it’s all over but the crying.
How difficult is it to stand by the principles you say you believe in? Okay, that can be hard, because we are only human, but isn’t walking the walk, even if you stumble, the whole point?
I saw a statistic the other day: there are more vacant homes of all types owned by banks due to foreclosures than there are homeless people in America. Stunning, right? Every day, though, people are struggling to stop evictions and foreclosures, to keep a roof over their children’s heads. What kind of random act of kindness would it be to start giving homeless people real places to live – especially those with children – and get them out of shelters? What kind of random act of kindness would it be to really work with people to keep them in their homes in the first place, instead of rushing to the courts to foreclose and evict? The numbers say there are jobs out there, yet people are unemployed. Homes available – people are homeless and continue to be made so. Jobs are out there for the getting – people aren’t able to find jobs.
The next time you read about one of these ‘random’ acts of kindness that doesn’t involve a lost pet, a deathly ill or disabled child, or someone in serious peril – first, be glad that there but for the grace of God go you, second, give some thought to someone in your own community that might be aching for the kind of life change the people in these news stories receive, simply by being them. Third, do something about it. Take the verb ‘be’ seriously and do some serious kindness for that person. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of deserve, either. If we wait for people that we feel deserve kindness to be kind to, we lose the point. Kindness is transformative, it’s encompassing. It’s a gift to both the giver and receiver, which is why this whole movement is important. It doesn’t happen because people wait for the deserve and not the opportunity to touch someone’s life in a positive way.
Right now, I’m sort of up to my armpits in problems of my own. It’s life, and I’m resigned to just slogging my way through it as best I can. One of my deepest and most fervent wishes, though, is to someday have a foundation that helps people stay in their homes, owned or rented, and does the hard work of getting people out of shelters and into homes of their own, KEEPING THEM THERE. It’s something I feel so strongly about that once I get this writing thing on a paying basis, I’m going to make it happen. If I win the lottery, I’ll get it going that much sooner. The only thing someone will need to ‘deserve’ my assistance and time is that they’re breathing. I think that’s fair, don’t you?
Because the world needs more kindness. More compassion. More people worried about families in the streets or in unsafe neighborhoods. More people worried about reaching out to others in a generous way. Then maybe we can say “YAY, us!” and mean it.