Kindness Counts

Last night at dinner we were discussing the trip Dave and I will be taking to Washington D.C. this fall to visit Chandler in college during parent’s weekend.

“Remember that woman who helped us in the subway station,” Chandler said. “She didn’t have to do that. That was so nice.”

It’s not the first time our family has talked about how helpful this stranger was to us. A random act of kindness, I suppose you could call it.

Random-Act-of-Kindess
Change the world!

 

Three years ago we traveled to Washington D.C. for a family vacation. We had an early morning flight that was delayed causing us to miss our connection. We eventually got to D.C. after a four hour layover and fourteen hour travel day. We landed sometime after 10PM and took the metro to our hotel. At the transfer station we encountered a huge mass of people. A Phillys/Nationals baseball game had just ended and the subway station was packed full.

Dave has lived in several big cities and I’ve traveled quite a bit, so we certainly know how to handle a crowded subway. But our kids? They’re Southern California suburbanites who’d only ever taken the LA subway (which can best be described as subway-lite) for fun day trips. As we stood at the edge of the line with our wheely bags, overtired, overwhelmed and completely out of our element, a woman approached us.

“Hi,” she said. “I can see that you guys are traveling. I’ve got an app on my phone and the next train is a short train. You’ll never make it on if you stand here. I know there are a lot of people, but try to move more towards the middle if you can. You’ll have to wait another twenty minutes if you miss this train.”

“Thank you,” we said as she and her friends moved up the line.

We mushed our way through the throngs of people and made our way toward the middle. She was right. The train wasn’t very long, but thanks to her we made it on.

It was such a simple thing she did, taking a few seconds to help a family she didn’t know and would never see again. She could have looked at us and thought, “Suckers.” Or just look through us and thought nothing at all. It wasn’t a grand gesture, but it certainly did save the day. It’s something we still talk about sometimes three years later.

In our day-to-day lives we’re met with rudeness or indifference all the time. The person who cuts you off or who doesn’t say thank you when you hold the door open for them. But those are not the people I remember.

I will always remember the man who helped me at the Chicago airport when I was traveling with toddler Chandler in a stroller and was faced with an escalator instead of an elevator. I remember the woman in Paris 29 years ago, who stopped to help us when she saw Rita and I standing on a street corner looking at a map (and probably looking very confused). I remember the two men in Ireland, on that same European trip, who helped us push (or rather pick up) our car out of the mud when we were stuck on a country road and then refused the ride we offered them once they got us out. (Okay, that’s hard to forget!)

What we do in our day-to-day lives matters. What we focus on matters. I choose to focus on the good, the beautiful, the inspiring and remember the kindnesses that are bestowed upon me, both big and small.

I’d love for you to tell me about an unexpected kindness that has been bestowed upon you.

 

Photo credit: Heath Brandon via Creative Commons

 

 

Hello Old Friend

I have a good friend I’ll call Joe who lives on the East Coast. I met him and his friend, who I’ll call Jack, in Ireland in the summer of 1986 while backpacking through Europe with my friend Simmah. Since he lives almost 3,000 miles away from me we’ve never seen each other much.

Odds were against us remaining friends. Not only because of the distance, but because the following summer I ended up falling madly in love with Jack. And for a very short while he loved me back. Then he broke my heart. But that’s another story.

Joe and I don’t talk on the phone very often. I’m not the best about keeping in touch and he’s even worse. (Way worse.) But I still count him as one of my dearest friends. You know those people that you don’t talk to for a couple of years and then you visit them or call them and –BOOM!– you pick up right where you left off – no awkwardness or resentment about phone calls not made, emails not sent? That’s how it is with my friend Joe.

He’s not on Facebook, so we can’t keep in touch that way and somehow over the last three or maybe even four years we’d completely lost touch. It doesn’t seem possible that we let it go so long without talking, but sometimes the minutiae of daily life gets in the way of things that are precious.

About a month ago I found an old picture of us – Joe, Jack, my friend May and me- taken in 1989 during a weekend spent at a beach house in New Jersey. (I had gotten over my broken heart and had started a cautious friendship with Jack again.) I snapped a photo of the picture with my phone and texted it to Jack and Joe. Remember these people? I asked.

The three of us started texting a bit and Joe told me he was going out to Oregon in July. Looking at colleges? I asked. Our boys are the same age. He told me yes and that also his son was running a race. I had no idea that his son was a runner.

What does he run? Chandler’s a runner too. He does XC, 800M, 1600M.

Joe texts back: XC, 800M, 1600M.

What are the odds?

What are his PR’s? I text. (That’s Personal Record for those of you outside the running world.) Chandler’s are 1:58 for 800M & 4:32 for 1600M.

But Joe is slow with the texting. And I don’t mean slow like me where my fat, old thumbs take a minute to type a ten word text. I mean slow as in he must be doing something else because sometimes it takes 10-20 minutes for him to reply. So I lose patience and Google his son.

Oh. My. God. His son is fast!

Nevermind just Googled him. Shit he’s fast. That’s awesome! Chandler only has to speed up his 1600 by 25 seconds to beat him!

His son’s 800M time is 1:52 and his 1600M is 4:07. And he’s high school state champion for the one mile. I watched the race where his son ran a 4:07 online. I show Chandler and Dave and we are all in awe of his speed. I’m so happy for my friend Joe.

We talked on the phone for an hour the next night. We couldn’t get over the coincidence that our sons ran the same races. Middle distance races – the races most runners hate. We texted during his son’s Oregon race and spoke again the week after.

We talked about running and college, reminisced about old times, and scolded ourselves for losing touch for so long.

“Talking to you makes me realize how much I miss you,” I told him.

He has always been one of my favorite people. He can make me laugh like few others and he’s truly just a good, good person.

We tell each other “I love you” when we hang up the phone. But not in the way that would make either of our spouses jealous. The way you say I love you to a cousin. Or a sibling. Or a true long-lost friend.

I’ll kick his ass if we lose touch again.