Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Stranger's Kindness

Life has been hard for me lately. Some of it has been self-inflicted but some of it I have had no control over. When life gets like this I tend to write a lot in my journal. I find it is a good way to organize thoughts and to reflect on them in the future.

Fate would have it that Sunday night, during a real low moment, an older gentleman asked if he could sit in the chair beside me at Starbucks while I was writing in my journal. "Of course" I responded with a smile.

I watched as he put down his bag, then his coffee, and slowly sank into the over-sized leather chair. As I started to write again he took up an interest in the stranger sitting beside him - me.

"Are you a writer or is that a diary?"

"It's just a diary."

"What do people write about in those things anyway?"

"Anything that is important in my life. It helps me to organize my thoughts and work through my problems."

"Sounds like your in a crisis."

"Yeah," I laughed. "I guess you could say that."

"Well, don't worry about it," he said with a smile. "You seem like a nice girl. Stick with your positive attitude and you'll make it through any crisis."

And just like that, the kindness of this gentle old man had me on the verge of tears in this busy Starbucks. He continued making conversation, asking if I was a student or worked full time, where I worked, etc. Polite conversation that I've only ever received from people in an older generation. It got me thinking about how my generation - the x y generation - walks around completely oblivious to others around us. For the most part. There are some of us that take interest in strangers. We smile and hold the door open for strangers, pick up a stranger's dropped belonging, simple acts of kindness. But for the most part, (and this is only my experience) most of us don't pay much attention to others.

I have always tried to be the type of person to smile at others if we make eye contact, to tell a worker that they're doing a good job, to compliment someone when they are looking good. These are such simple acts of kindness we can do in our every day lives that can actually make an impact on others. Just like this old man made an impact on me.

That night I had been struggling with a big decision in my life. Whether to go for something I really wanted or to back away politely in peace. This complete stranger (his name is Don I ended up finding out) gave me that little bit of extra courage to stand up for what I wanted and fight for it.

So the next time you see someone that looks a little down on their luck, throw a compliment or even just a sincere smile their way. Open the door for a stranger or lend someone a helping hand. You never know what kind of impact you could make on them. And plus, it never hurt anyone to spread kindness into the world. :)