Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Celebrating Random Acts of Kindness

On this day where many are remembering 9/11 and the terrorist attack on our nation, I have decided to celebrate something wonderful about the people in our country--something that I believe no terrorist can take away from the human spirit. That is random acts of kindness. 

I have been the bearer and receiver of random acts of kindness throughout my life. So, what is a random act of kindness?   It is different from the kindness we provide or plan for everyday--kindness to our family, our office mates, or a friend we know needs help. It is different from the volunteer work we might undertake.  All of these are amazing and should be celebrated. But the "random" act is one that you did not plan but do because it seems right. It is an act that involves a stranger.

A random act of kindness can be free of money. It can be as simple as giving a hug or saying thank you for your service. It can be telling a stranger something wonderful you've noticed about him/her. It can be offering a flower or an entire bouquet, from your garden, to a neighbor you've never met. It can be making sure a wandering child gets back to his/her mother before danger approaches. It can be helping a person to cross the street safely when he/she seems confused or unable to move easily.

We sometimes hear of random acts that involve money, and I've engaged in these as well, though they may not be appropriate or ones that everyone can do. It can be coming up with that one more dollar for the person in front of you at the grocery store who finds herself a dollar short. It can be paying for a meal of someone in a restaurant who is alone.  It can be paying for the gas for the car behind you in the line at the station. It can be buying a book for the person at the bookstore who is reading but cannot afford to buy.  It is anything that is unexpected and kind.

I'd like to share with you a true story that happened to my husband and I during the Bite of Oregon Festival which we attended on my husband's birthday in August. This is not something we absolutely needed, but it is still a random act of kindness for which we are greatful and reminds us of the natural kindness of strangers. For those who don't know about the festival, it is a time where Portland celebrates it's culinary and beverage roots. A variety of food, ranging from that of great chefs to street food presented in food trucks is the centerpiece, as well as drinks presented by Oregon wineries and breweries. This year was especially appealing for two reasons: 1) The entrance fee was a mere $5 (in recognition of the economy the fee was reduced to get more people to come; and 2) It was also celebrating brewing in Oregon. A home brewer for more than 30 years, my husband was keen to try new brews. I am also fortunate that he loves to cook, and so going to the Bite of Oregon on his birthday was a great way to spend the day.

It was toward the end of our day at the festival that the random act of kindness occurred. We were enjoying a beer tasting in a crowded tent and had barely managed to get a small table out of the glare of the sun. A woman approached us trying to find a table for her and her husband who would be joining her in a few minutes. We offered a portion of our small table and had the good fortune of great conversation with this young couple. When they learned it was my husband's birthday, they volunteered to buy a beer. When she returned with the beer, she had purchased not only the beer but the Bite of Oregon commemorative glass as well and wished him Happy Birthday.

Again, a small random act from a nice couple who we will likely never see again. Did we need that glass or the beer? No, but it was the spirit in which the gift was given and their desire to help celebrate an important, milestone birthday with us that was the kindness. Strangers making my husband's birthday even more special and reminding me once again of the inherent goodness in most of us.

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