Many years ago, when my sons were in grade school, much to their displearsure, I ran an errand after picking them up at the end of the school day. All they wanted to do was get home and relax. The fact that I dragged them along on my errand didn’t sit well with either of them, so they both moped and brooded in the back seat, their silence a clear indication of their annoyance.
While waiting at a red light, my attention was drawn to an old man who was crossing the street in front of my car and going at an agonizingly slow pace. He was thin and hunched over and reminded me of a bent stick. I was amazed he could walk without toppling over!
I could see he was struggling with two bags of groceries and I saw that the direction he was headed in would take him up a hill. Thinking about how difficult that would be for him, I pulled my car alongside and offered him a ride. He gratefully accepted even though it was apparently only a few more blocks to his apartment.
After we dropped him off, my sons asked why I had picked him up. They were impatient to get home and were in no mood to share their ride with a complete stranger. They knew I had a soft spot when it came to elderly people, but rather than remind them of that, I replied, “Because when I’m a hunched-over old woman, I hope someone will stop and help me.” That not only stifled their complaining, but it also gave them something to think about on the ride home.
Fast forward 25 years to when I found myself standing on a street corner this past Christmas, supporting my six-year-old grandson as he belted out Christmas carols by himself from a songbook in an effort to raise money for the local food bank. His desire to do something for all the families affected financially by Covid-19 far outweighed his natural inclination to avoid attention. Watching him screw up his courage and perform such an act of kindness warmed my heart. In an hour of non-stop caroling, he raised $273 for the local food bank. His efforts were rewarded with a tour of the food bank where he saw firsthand how the money he had earned would be used.
I have always found that young children tend to be naturally kind. Fostering and encouraging that is our job as parents and grandparents. You just never know how much a simple act of kindness may mean to another person. It doesn’t have to be anything big—it could be something as simple as a smile, a compliment or giving up one’s seat on a bus. If someone is at an emotional low, a kind act may mean everything. It may mean the difference between a miserable day and a lift to someone’s spirits, even if that lift ends up being the only bright spot in their day.
Showing kindness can also motivate the recipient to do something kind in turn for someone else. A “Pay it Forward” sort of thing. And remarkably, a kind act is not only beneficial to the receiver, but to the giver as well. One can’t help but feel a mixture of pride, accomplishment and usefulness. It’s almost like a natural high.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for all of us. It has brought to light the importance of being kind to others, especially during such trying times. Dr. Bonnie Henry summed it up aptly with her request to “Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.”
It’s no surprise that Be Kind was a cornerstone of her message. After all, a little kindness can go a long way.