A little kindness can go a long way in this world, and we need it today as much as ever.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the power of simple acts of kindness for myself this week when shopping at my local Whole Foods. I had been to the eye doctor that morning and had my eyes dilated. Since my vision was blurry, I didn’t want to drive home too quickly, so I stopped at the grocery store to kill some time.
Since it was lunch time, I decided to stop by their self-serve food buffet to get something to eat. As I moved awkwardly through the store wearing my dark sunglasses, I tried to make out the different food items as best I could from appearance.
I am on a special diet right now, so while I could tell what most things were, I got lost when it came to the details. I saw a sweet potato/kale dish for instance that looked good, but wasn’t sure what other ingredients it contained as they were just blurs inside of the tray, and there was no chance I could read the label with the description. I quickly realized I couldn’t complete this basic task I had always taken for granted and started to feel rather helpless.
Another man was at the food bar getting himself a serving of one of the items I was eyeing, so I asked him if he would mind reading the name of the dish to me. I apologized and said I had been at the eye doctor that morning and couldn’t see much. He smiled and was happy to oblige, commenting, “no worries; I have been there myself!”
While I had his assistance, I asked him about one other dish as well. I thanked him for his help and was relieved to find out that neither item raised any dietary concerns for me. I felt much more at ease knowing I could finish putting together my lunch.
When checking out, I went through the self-checkout line without thinking about it since I only had two items, but then got quickly tripped up again when I couldn’t read everything on the screen. Since I was paying for an item without a barcode that I could just scan, I was stuck.
I asked the store employee watching over the self-checkout lines if she would mind assisting me with the same sheepish line about having been at the eye doctor, and once again, she was more than happy to complete the task for me, even being so kind as to audibly describe each action she was taking on my behalf.
More Simple Good Deeds
While eating my lunch, I couldn’t help but notice an incident that took place at the table next to me. Two people were seated across from one another right by one of the exit doors from the store. The woman was facing the door but her friend had his back to it and obviously couldn’t see what was behind him.
She noticed a young mother with a cart full of groceries and a small child coming out of the exit door and struggling to open the door and come through it. The lady left her table conversation, got up to get the door and held it for the mother coming through.
An elderly couple, one of whom was a woman with a walker, was coming through behind the mother and her child, so the lady held the door for them as well.
I smiled peacefully as I watched this unfold, having just been a recipient of a simple but important kind act myself back at the food bar. I finished my lunch and never had to worry about having any digestive discomfort afterwards because of the help the man gave me to let me know what was in each dish. It led me to consider just how much better my day had been from these seemingly small events.
Asking for Help is Hard
It’s human nature to find it difficult to ask for help on simple matters like this from others, but helping one another is one of the primary reasons we are here in this life. As Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) Perhaps it is pride, or perhaps it is just not wanting to burden somebody else that gives us pause.
The reality is that the average person not only does not mind providing help, he actually wants to do it. Although it is hard to ask, we often are being a blessing to that person by asking for his help since he does like to give it even though we are reluctant to ask. By asking, we give him this important opportunity. It becomes a gift for both people in other words.
Simple Acts of Kindness Are Powerful
The man at the food bar today probably has no idea how much it meant to me that he helped me get my food. Fortunately for me, even if I had eaten the wrong thing, it would not have been life threatening, but that is not the case for everyone. Some people, for instance, have food allergies that are so severe they can be fatal.
As I drove home later, I found myself feeling more upbeat and relaxed. I drove more carefully, made room to let somebody merge in front of me, and was in no rush to get home.
But what if the situation had played out differently?
Imagine the way dominos could start falling in the world if negative things were set in motion: the man tells me when I ask for his help to drop dead, I feel angry or sad as a result, I feel sick and irritable because I ate the wrong thing, I drive home sooner than I should and can’t see very well, I am impatient behind the wheel and drive too fast, I cut off the other car rather than let him merge, he then is angry and cuts in front of somebody in line at a store, that person then is angry, a fight breaks out…
The chain of events can snowball quickly in either direction. We don’t realize it, but even small acts of love towards one another can profoundly impact other people and have wide reaching effects on the rest of the world.
Many federal employees have the opportunity to spread random acts of kindness even more than most people since they work in jobs interacting with large segments of the public. Social Security employees, Postal clerks, or rangers with the Park Service are just a few examples of federal employees who frequently interact with the public.
I’ve personally had the pleasure of interacting with some who helped me a lot. On a recent trip to the Everglades National Park for instance, a park ranger gave me some great tips on where to go/not go in the park for that time of year and also taught me some interesting facts about the animals and ecosystem there. It made my trip more enjoyable, and I’d be willing to bet it made her feel good also to get to share her obvious love of the park with a first time visitor.
In a world filled with so many negative things (illness, crime, political bickering, terrorist attacks, wars, etc.), maybe we all could use more random acts of kindness.