In 1982, someone scribbled on a paper placemat in a restaurant, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The “saying” emerged and was quickly embraced by people far and wide. Before long, the quotation appeared on bumper stickers, coffee mugs, t-shirts and notebooks.
As I sit here at my desk, and I contemplate the quote again and again, it is hard to find fault with the writer’s decree. We should all be kind, especially in these boisterous times, and why wouldn’t we want to make things a little more beautiful?
Last Saturday, I had to pick something up at the grocery store, and in the parking lot, I saw something that made me pause. A busy, well-dressed executive type exited her luxury SUV and was striding her way into the store with purpose. She was in a hurry to get something she seemingly could not live without.
How it happened, I can’t quite say, but she accidentally dropped her keys. There was a man employed by the grocery store who was collecting carts who saw her keys fall. He picked them up and ran after her. He actually was out of breath trying to catch up with her.
“Miss,” he called. “Miss, here are your keys.”
She turned and snatched the keys out of his hand. She did not smile, did not thank him and barely acknowledged his gesture. I could see the disappointment on his face. He wasn’t a kid. He had the look of a person who had seen some tough times. Still, his dignity and his honesty have remained intact, no matter what life has thrown at him. It wasn’t his act of kindness that drew my attention; it was her lack of gratitude at the gesture.
Losing a set of keys is no small matter, especially those expensive “fob” type keys. Let’s face it, suppose a dishonest person had seen her drop the keys who saw it as a golden opportunity to temporarily “acquire” a new SUV, or at the very least rummage through it? She would not have been too happy upon leaving the store.
The incident has led me to think about another “saying.” Sometimes you have to walk away and let karma take over, or another way of saying it,“What goes around comes around!”
I do not know what the busy executive did for a living or what she needed so badly in the store. It is a shame that there wasn’t a shelf in the store marked “Gratitude,” for she could have surely purchased a few cans of that!
In the larger picture, how many of us have been the recipients of random acts of kindness and have hardly acknowledged them?
A random act does not mean a stranger walked up to you and gave you half of her winning lottery ticket. It could be a neighbor who cleared your sidewalk, brought your garbage can from the curb to your garage, dropped off some tomatoes they grew in their garden or took in a package that had been delivered. How about the friend who visited your mom in the hospital or forwarded you a recipe “just because,” or drove you somewhere when your car was in the shop?
As a society, we are urged to be randomly kind – and believe me, that is an important thing – but do we also remember to show appreciation when we are the recipients of that kindness? You don’t have to be brash to be impolite; you only need to be ungrateful.
We all live busy, stressed-filled and often over-scheduled lives, but that is no excuse for rudeness. Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. The respect you show others (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of your self-respect.
I challenge each of you to acknowledge and appreciate the little things people do for you. It’s time to pick up the phone and say thank you, send a thank you card or, at the very least, send an email to let the person know you noticed what they did. It’s time to brighten a person’s day who took the time to be kind to you. It’s time to celebrate random acts of kindness!