Years ago, the Reader’s Digest published a segment called the “Most Unforgettable Person I Know.”
People wrote tributes to praise someone who they thought was exemplary in some way. A person who, by virtue of their personality, or beliefs, or character, made the world a better place. I like to watch ABC News and they do a segment every Friday in which they highlight someone’s good deeds.
What always appealed to me about these kinds of things is that they call attention to ordinary people who, in certain situations, do extraordinary things. The hero who pulls someone from a burning car or house, the neighbor who helps everyone on the street, the person who donates a kidney to a perfect stranger in need. These people deserve to be praised, and they usually are.
I sometimes like to dig deeper on that theme and look out for the people whose simple acts make the world a better place. You see, our lives, for the most part, are pretty ordinary, and most of us never experience that dramatic event that can change our life. On the other hand, just think of how much more we might enjoy each and every day if we simply took note of the small kindnesses that come our way.
I think that if we set our sights on being more mindful of those who give us a personal boost each day, we just might like life a little more.
So many people do things that may only take a minute of their time, but which, in the end, make things a little nicer for us. The store check-out person who gives you a welcoming smile when you approach; the person ahead of you in line who allows you to move forward when noticing your meager purchases; the pay it forward customers who pay for a second cup of coffee that gets offered to a needy customer; the delivery person who takes the time to place your package out of the reach of the elements; the person who holds the door for you.
If you drill a little deeper, you find the teacher who quietly reaches out to a troubled child, the police officer who tries to make you feel good about having him or her there to help you, the people who, week after week, cook for others or find a way to get food to those in need.
Recognizing these things makes me feel really optimistic about the reality of our world - it’s not all as dark as it sometimes seems.
In church, we very often offer prayers for those who are sick or suffering a personal crisis. We reach out to them spiritually, as a means of supporting them. Wouldn’t it be reassuring if we also took time to offer thanks for all the kindnesses that came our way. Give a shout out to the people who walk the walk. It might make us all more willing to take a step in that direction ourselves.
During a recent trip, when I encountered the new technology at the airport, helping hands appeared out of nowhere. When I moved, I was really thankful for the kind neighbors who knocked on my door to introduce themselves and welcome me to the neighborhood. It was thoughtful and reassuring to know that I was living in a community and not in isolation. Small gestures; big outcomes.
Do you have to be taught to be kind, I wonder, or does it come naturally by way of our human nature? However it comes to be, we can all focus on the opportunities that arise to do something nice for someone else.
The writer may be reached at F.firstname.lastname@example.org.