My faith in people was renewed last week.
My spirits were lifted because a kind individual made the choice to be generous and thoughtful with their personal time.
They didn’t have to.
Their unselfish act took me totally by surprise, as it was a random deed of kindness. Completely genuine.
Isn’t that the way life should be lived – with total regard for helping others, and daily reaching out to brighten someone else’s life.
Upon moving to Atlanta nearly 20 years ago, my very first day in the community where I was going to live was spent unpacking, organizing, cleaning and settling in to my home.
By the end of the day I was a dirty mess and dead tired. Nonetheless, in my rag-tag attire, I opted to make a quick trip to the grocery store for food items and dinner. I only needed to pick up a few things.
At the grocery check-out counter, the cashier made a mistake and ran my food items through, putting them on the bill of the lady in front of me. The cashier apologized, and asked the lady to return her sack so we could retrieve my items. I apologized for the inconvenience as well and explained I had just moved to Atlanta and was working on my new home.
She smiled as she put her sack back on the counter, and as she pulled my food items from her bag, she said, “I hope you are as happy in Atlanta as I am. Let these items be my gift to you in your new home. Welcome to Atlanta!” She walked away, but left me with a gift always remembered. Her kindness.
Even today I can still see her face and hear her southern accent. She was a lovely woman, but it was the unfaltering act of kindness that stays firmly in my mind.
Selfless acts of kindness are wonderful gifts that are never forgotten and there have been many documented in history. Here are just a few:
Harriet Tubman was a brave soul who helped rescue approximately 300 people from slavery by using sections of the underground railroad. She led many to safety because of her own fortitude and strength.
Carl Ludwig Long, a German athlete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, exhibited kindness by reaching out to American Jesse Owens, advising Owens how to qualify for the long jump. Long, a long-jumper as well, showed exceptional kindness for a ‘man of color’ during a precarious time of social unrest. A gesture that posed a huge risk to his well-being.
Harold Lowe, a young officer on board the Titanic, was the only person in a row boat who felt the need to return to the sinking ship to save others. Lowe went back to save at least six people from freezing to death in frigid waters.
Oskar Schindler, German businessman and Nazi, felt compelled to protect thousands of Jews from meeting death in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
President Abraham Lincoln, a believer in the equality of all men, faced extreme adversity while pushing forward with his personal goal to abolish slavery in the United States. A feat that cost him his life.
Sir Nicholas Winton, British social worker and humanitarian, saved hundreds of Jewish children by openly and yet covertly arranging safe passage for Jewish children to enter Great Britain, placing the youths with new families. During the Holocaust, he saved nearly 700 children.
Brave acts born from kindness.
The lack of kindness in today’s world is not a new occurrence. That is why history books are full of stories about the Holocaust, slavery, genocide, discrimination and more.
Incivility is why television and radio are primed with public awareness campaigns that promote decency and compassion. We regularly hear commercials from famous individuals urging us to embrace gentleness and bestow acts of kindness to others. To live life with kindness and good intentions. A message that has continued through the ages.
Maya Angelou, an American poet and memoirist, is credited for the following words about kindness, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Charlie Chaplin, a celebrity from a different era once stated, “We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.”
Maybe if we all did one overt act of kindness each day we could make a difference in our community –– no doubt it would make a difference in our personal life. A wonderful gift, indeed.
Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless”
Her words ring true for me today, because after nearly 20 years, I still remember with vivid detail the kind gesture from the woman in Atlanta.
And today, there is no doubt I will always remember the kindhearted gesture from a local Douglas County resident who touched my life with an unsolicited, unexpected act of kindness.
Isn’t a loving generous spirit the legacy we should all strive to leave behind?
And, special acts of kindness.