A while ago I was in a sandwich shop downtown. Through the window I saw a young man, unshaven with threadbare clothes, sitting alone at an outside table, not eating or drinking. On the spur of the moment, I decided to buy him the same sandwich I’d ordered and an iced tea.
Frankly I was uncomfortable engaging with a stranger. Would he respond angrily if I approached him? Overriding these concerns, I went outside and quickly placed the bag of food on his table without saying anything as I turned and walked quickly away.
I looked back at him from a distance, saw him peer into the bag, and he quickly caught my eye and shouted, “Did you get this for me?” I answered yes and he responded in a voice cracking with emotion, “You are so kind. Thank you for being so kind.” I walked away before I diminished the moment with an offhand remark like, “it’s only a sandwich” and before he saw me cry after hearing his kind response. I hadn’t thought of myself as kind. It just felt so deeply good to do something good.
Now I live in the suburbs and the opportunity for this specific type of experience doesn’t present itself although I know the need is there. I find that if I look for opportunities to be kind, they’re not so difficult to find no matter where I am. Maybe it’s holding a door, giving up a parking space, letting someone go in front of me at the grocery store. It’s interesting that people are so grateful for such simple gestures these days.
I’m frustrated I can’t resolve any of the macro level issues on the news or newsfeed. So I’m fighting back with kindness on a micro level. The media focuses on everything that’s going wrong, magnifying the most problematic issues on the planet. They repeat stories about politicians and citizens behaving badly, back-to-back natural horrors and tragedies, labeling them as dangerous, terrifying and catastrophic. Some situations undoubtedly are. But overall, this paints an acutely unbalanced view.
I’m bringing more kind actions of my own into the world, patience, tolerance, consideration, generosity. This may not make the news, which by the way, I’m limiting my exposure to. But I’m actively, consciously choosing kindness. That’s news I’m creating. It brightens my days and I hope it radiates out.