Leanne wrote a really great post last night (if you haven’t read it yet, hop over to From Chaos Comes Happiness). As I read her post, I thought, “What a great act of kindness.” And then I started asking myself if I had been kind or exhibited an act of kindness to anyone recently. Here is my story.
For the first time in my life, I find myself unemployed (oh boy – what a topic – for another time). Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I had to go to my local unemployment office to handle some paperwork. As I drove around the unfamiliar area, the only parking I could find was metered street parking, a couple of blocks from the office. I started to panic wondering if I had any quarters for the old-fashioned meter box (which would only accept quarters). Luckily, I found some quarters in my car and wallet. So I parked and went in to the office (actually stood in line outside the office with a gazillion other people). As I patiently waited my turn, I saw a young 20-something guy come in. Clean-cut, all-American type of guy. He looked lost (and maybe just a little scared) and I’m guessing this was his first time at the unemployment office too. I watched him ask a thousand questions to the clerk on what to do in order to file for unemployment, and then, my name was called and off I went to conduct my own unemployment business.
As I walked back to the car after finishing my business, I heard running footsteps behind me. I thought, I hope no one is chasing me – I can’t run with my wobbly knees! Suddenly, I heard a voice shout out, “Excuse me, Ma’am! Excuse me!” (Side note – don’t you hate being called “Ma’am”? Ma’am is for my mother – I still prefer “Miss”!) So I stopped and turned around. Running from behind me is the All-American guy. As he was running towards me, he shouts, “Do you have any change for a dollar?” Change for a dollar? Did I hear right? Then it hit me – the poor guy needed change for a parking meter. He must not have finished his unemployment business and needed to feed the parking meter and go back to the office. He was probably running in order to get to his car in time before he received a parking ticket. (The last thing someone needs when they are unemployed is an unexpected bill, like a parking ticket.) So, I quickly dug in my pocket and pulled out the one last coin I had – a quarter. With that, the All-American guy catches up to me. He was slightly out of breath from running and had a slight look of panic on his face. I asked him, “Do you need it for parking?” And he replied, “Yes.” I then said, “I’m sorry, I used all my quarters for parking too, but I do have one quarter left. Take it. It’s yours.” The All-American guy looked at me, and he seemed genuinely surprised that I was giving him a quarter. Right there and then the expression on his face changed from panic to relief. With that, he said with much sincerity, “Oh Thank you! Thank You!” He then flashed a big grin, and proceeded to run off to his car.
I never saw how far the All-American guy ran or where he parked his car. I smiled to myself as I got in my car, feeling good to help out this stranger, hoping that my small quarter saved him from a parking ticket and made an otherwise crumby day at the unemployment office a little better for him.
I know that we all have our own stories of kindness, but sometimes we get caught up in the rat-race of our busy lives or we just go on "automatic pilot" and we forget some of the simple things, like being kind. I know I do. So whether it is a cake for a neighbor (remember Leanne’s post)…. or a quarter… or a smile… or a please or thank you (said with meaning!), any act of kindness to a family member, a co-worker, or a friend, or a complete stranger, can go a long way.