Every so often we find ourselves in the “ebb” part of the ebb and flow of life. It’s almost as if Murphy himself is testing out his law on your life and one thing after another makes you feel like you’re Sisyphus watching the boulder roll down the hill just as you got it up to the top. It’s during times like that which makes me say, “Please stop the ride! I wanna get off!!” When I hear that a friend is going through a difficult time like this I usually remind them that the pendulum will eventually swing in the other direction and offer an ear or a shoulder.
What many of us forget is just how powerful that ear or shoulder can be. I’m not saying that we’ve miraculously developed some sort of superhero power…although that might be exactly what we’ve done without realizing it. Instead of a cape, we are seen as wearing a halo of sorts. So many times our words or actions have arrived at exactly the right moment for the person to whom they’re directed. It may be just what that person needed to hear or could be as simple as the embrace of a hug after a difficult day. As each of us has our issues we deal with, we must recognize that everyone else is also fighting their hidden battles. Most people will put on their happy face and show you what they want you to see. On days like this, a simple smile or even a two-second text can go a long way; it can make all the difference. It can pull someone up from the end of their rope. It can instantly change their attitude by making the unbearable downright tolerable. You may not even realize you’ve done anything to merit gratitude, but that’s what makes such a simple act so powerful.
Late last year I took a trip back up to Arlington to visit my family. On my way, I did something I’ve NEVER done. I purchased a pack of cigarettes. Now before you start lecturing me about the dangers of smoking, let me qualify this statement and put your mind at ease. I did NOT purchase the cigarettes for myself, nor did I pay for the entire pack myself. I had stopped at a convenience store for a drink or a snack or something and found myself standing behind a young woman in line. She was there to purchase a pack of smokes, but was having trouble coming up with all of the cash she needed and was told she was about $0.22 short. She told the cashier she would be right back and stepped outside to her car to see if she could scrounge up the missing money. I stepped up to the counter to pay for my item and asked the clerk how much she was missing. When he told me the amount I took a quarter out of my wallet, tossed it on the counter with the rest of her change, finished paying for my stuff and then headed out the door passing by the young woman as she was headed back in looking completely discouraged. As I got all of my stuff situated in my car and started to back out I looked up only to see the young woman frantically waving at me with an ear-to-ear grin. She was thanking me for my help. I really didn’t think a quarter would have made such a difference, but to her it did.
The point is that we all have our vices. Sure, hers may have been cigarettes, but I am not one to judge. Hell, I could have been buying some chocolate treats that I needed like I needed a hole in the head for all I know. She may have just had the worst day ever and all she wanted was a drag of a cigarette to make it a little easier. The bottom line is that her reason doesn’t matter. The look on her face before the quarter and after the quarter said it all. I had made a difference in her life on that day and, although I would never condone smoking, I will admit her reaction made the rest of my drive that much better.
Now I usually don’t do this, but I’d like to pose a challenge to all of my readers. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to commit as many Acts of Random Kindness during May as you can. See how many people’s lives you can have a positive impact on in one month. Smiles are contagious as is laughter, so I challenge you to find a reason to smile and laugh every day and see how many people you can infect with a positive attitude. Make that call to a long-lost friend or relative you’ve been putting off for one reason or another. Look for joy in the little things and share that view with those around you. Compassion for others is a lost art nowadays, but the great thing about life is that it becomes what you make of it. Remember, your life is an occasion. Rise to it!