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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness



I cannot tell you all how excited I was to see all the participation around the world for Random Acts of Kindness Day.  As so many of you experienced, we all have so much power to change the world, to positively impact another’s day.  Imagine what the world would be like if we all exercised this power a little more often.

To try and help further illustrate the above point, I have chosen to compile some of your stories/comments from Random Acts of Kindness Day into a narrative form.  I have done this for two reasons:

1.)    To honor the requests of many of you who were concerned that by sharing your experiences it would diminish the randomness and the actual act of kindness itself.  (please note that I do not believe this.  How are we supposed to train our minds to be more aware of opportunities to do this, if we do not consciously seek out opportunities?)
2.)    I thought that by sharing your experiences in the form of a story, it would be a better way to honor the Random Acts of Kindness you performed.

There are two central characters in this story, Alex and Jamie.  I chose Alex and Jamie because they are “unisex” names, meaning they are popular as both boys and girls names.  As I write this story I am not intending for Alex and Jamie to be portrayed as either a Man or a Woman.  How you wish to view Alex and Jamie is completely up to you. 
One final note, I am transcribing this from an idea I have in my head onto the blog you are reading.  Any inconsistences or lapse’s in the flow of the story are not intentional as I am filling the blanks into my idea as I type.
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Ok onto the story:

Once upon a time, in a land very similar to your own, their lived an ordinary kid named Alex.  Alex’s family was not financially rich, but they were wealthy with love and knowledge.  Alex was the 3rd born of 4 children.  Alex was very small in stature compared to the two brothers and one sister Alex had.
When Alex was 20 years old, Alex’s Dad was killed in a horrible car accident. 
Dad had been saving for 6 months to do something special for Alex’s Mom on their anniversary.  When the day came, Alex’s Dad took the money out of a secret hiding place and headed into town to buy Alex’s Mom some flowers, her favorite chocolate, and a golden heart necklace.  He was going to buy her a bracelet to go with the necklace, but when he walked into the store he noticed a homeless man in a wheel chair with a sign that read “Vietnam Vet, I am hungry and love to read.”
 Dad counted his money and headed into the store.  Alex’s Dad grabbed the flowers, chocolate, necklace, and food for the homeless man.  He looked for some books, but all he could find is a book on “how to become a real estate agent.” He went up to the register to pick up the bracelet, but noticed there was a food donation box for animals.  The sign said that you could purchase pet food and put it in the box and all the food would be donated to the local animal shelter.
Alex’s Dad recounted his money again.  He could not possible afford the chocolate, the flowers, the necklace, food and the “how to become a real estate agent” book for the homeless man, food for the animal shelter, AND the bracelet.  He thought for a moment about what to do, and then thought about how much his wife loved to do little random acts of kindness to make other people happy.  He knew that the book and food would make his wife much happier than a bracelet.  So Alex’s Dad bought dog food, along with the gifts for his wife, walked outside and handed the homeless man the delicious food and “how to become a real estate agent” book, jumped in his car, and started on his way home.
Dad was in a hurry.  Making the decision to buy the food for the homeless man and dog’s set him back about 10 minutes later than he planned.  He did not want to ruin the surprise by being late.
As he drove, Alex’s Dad thought back to the time when he had broken his leg and could barely work let alone do the household chores.  And he remembered how one day his wife surprised him by mowing the lawn… it meant so much to him that she would do that, that she would help him out at a time he felt so helpless.
Alex’s Dad could not wait to get home; he imagined how happy his wife would be to receive her gifts.  He could see the tears of joy coming down her face, and he could see her cheeks redden with happiness. He could almost hear her…
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a flash of red, blonde hair, piercing green eyes, an airplane, two cars, people, a TREE
BAM!
Alex’s Dad was killed instantly upon impact with the tree.  He saved the lives of the three people who were on the side of the road.  There was no way he could have avoided hitting those people, unless he chose to run into the tree.
The person with the blonde hair, piercing green eyes, and the bright red jacket with an airplane on it, had gotten a flat tire about 10 minutes ago.  Two people interrupted their morning commute to help this person change their tire. They were shocked when the car came around the blind turn heading straight for them.  They all thought they were going to die.  At the last instance the car swerved and hit the tree.  All three rushed over to check and see if the driver was ok.
Alex’s two older brothers had moved away from home and Alex’s sister was too young.  Alex’s mother could not be consoled so that left Alex with the task of heading down to sign the necessary paper work and collect Dad’s personal items.
The police report said “the driver was found clutching a necklace in his right hand.”   Alex began to cry realizing that Dad had purchased this gift for Mom.  Then Alex read the tiny inscription on the necklace:  “The power of Love and Kindness exists in You.”  Alex kept the necklace thinking it would only upset Mom more if she saw it.
Three years have passed and Alex is now 23 years old.  Alex has stayed close to home to help Mom who never fully recovered after Dad died.  Alex is happy, but feels like something is missing from life.  Alex once had big dreams to change the world, but feels like those dreams can no longer be realized living this small, ordinary life, in this small town.
After all, doing great things and changing the world is only for great people right?  Ordinary people like You, like Me, like Alex, great things are not for us, right?
One day Alex stumbled upon the necklace, and reread the inscription for the first time in over three years, “The power of Love and Kindness exists in You.”
Later that day Alex and a friend were volunteering at a haunted hayride on a local farm.  Alex’s friend was complaining of being sad and Alex had got her out of the house in an effort to cheer her up.  While they were there they noticed a 10 year old girl who was not having a fun time on her birthday.  She was too scared to get on the hayride and began cry, so Alex ran over to her and gave her some candy and popcorn to cheer her up.  The little girl was so happy.
Alex’s friend said, “Wow you just made that little girls day.  It is amazing what a little kindness will do.”
“The power of Love and Kindness exists in You.”  Alex thought.
“I have an idea!”  Alex exclaimed.  “What if we make a goal of trying to do something nice for a stranger every day, you know, Little Random Acts of Kindness.”
“You mean do something and expect absolutely nothing in return?” Alex’s friend asked.
“Exactly!” said Alex.
“What is the point?”  Alex’s friend asked.
“Because, uh, um… because… Because we can!  Because You and I, we have the power to make a difference in the world.  Because Love and Kindness exists in You and Me.” Alex replied
“Um, I am not sure if I share your enthusiasm, and I don’t know if I really buy into the whole “change the world” stuff, but hey, what the hell, I am in.” 
“Fantastic.” responded Alex.  “There is a walk tomorrow for ALS, you know Lou Gehrig’s disease that I was thinking about doing.  Let’s start with that.  I’ll see you there tomorrow at 9am.”
With that Alex headed home smiling what felt like the first real smile since Dad had died.  Alex did not know where the Random Acts of Kindness adventure would lead, but that did not matter.  What did matter is Alex now had a sense of purpose… a driving force that would help guide Alex through life.
Alex met up with Friend at the ALS walk and was surprised to see Friend standing there holding a tray of healthy snacks for Alex and her.
“I thought I would start this Random Acts of Kindness thing off right,” she said.  “I figure you and I can’t possibly change the world if we keep eating junk food.”
Alex and Friend enjoyed a few of the snacks and passed the rest out to other participants of the ALS walk.  As they walked, Alex and friend discussed some of the possible ways they could perform Random Acts of Kindness.  To their amazement, they came up with more ideas than they could remember.
“We could give away some of our old clothes to someone in need.”  Alex suggested
“Yea!  And we could buy a couple weeks’ worth of food for the Smith family that lives down the street.  You know Mrs. Smith has been out of a job for over three months!  I bet they could sure use the help.”
“Great idea!” Alex responded enthusiastically.  “We could also do something like bake homemade biscuits for the Lions Club jumble sale and auction that they have coming up next week.”
“I love it!” Friend chimed in.  “Hmm, what else could we do??? Oh, I know!  I could call my friend Lisa today just to say hello.  Her husband has not been doing well, and I am sure she would appreciate the sentiment.”
“We could also go to the local retirement home and spend some time with the residents there.  I am sure they get lonely and would really appreciate the company.”
“Wow, we are really coming up with some great ideas.”  Friend observed.  “You know it is not every day that you are given an opportunity to do a little Random Act of Kindness for a fellow or fella you don’t know.  It feels great!”
“You are right,” Alex said.  “It is not every day that we are given the opportunity, BUT every day we do have ability to CREATE an opportunity to do a little Random Act of Kindness for someone.”
Alex and Friend finished up the ALS walk and parted ways.  Friend headed home to give her friend, Lisa, a call, while Alex headed to the local store.
Alex parked the car and got out.  Alex was about to run into the store when something caught Alex’s eye.  An old lady was starting to walk out in front of the traffic.  She seemed to be confused by the street lights.  Alex dashed over there and stopped the old lady.  Alex chatted with the old lady for a minute, explaining the street lights.  The old lady told Alex she was color blind and repeatedly thanked Alex for taking the time to help her.  She insisted on buying Alex lunch.
Alex and the old lady had a delightful time at lunch.  She had insisted on taking Alex to Alex’s favorite restaurant.   As they chatted, Alex could not stop thinking about the irony of the situation… the only reason Alex was sitting there enjoying the delicious lunch with the great company was because of the decision to look for opportunities to perform Random Acts of Kindness. 
“Just goes to show you, Alex thought… you never know where life may take you.”
As a final thank you, the old lady gave Alex a gift: “I worked for the airlines for over 30 years,” the old lady said, “Every year, I get what are called buddy passes.  I want you to have one.  You can take that trip to California that you were talking about, for free.”
Alex was speechless, “Th, Tha, Thank You so much!” Alex wrapped the old lady up in a hug.  They said their goodbyes and Alex walked away feeling 10 feet all.
Alex finally made it into the store to buy a long overdue card and gift card.  As Alex was standing in line, Alex noticed that there was a man standing in line that was struggling to carry all his groceries.  Alex stepped aside and insisted the man go in front of Alex.  The man was hesitant at first, but after getting reassured from Alex that it was ok, the man happily set his heavy loud down on the counter.
Alex paid for the card and gift card and headed off to the local hospital. 
After Dad had died Alex had several medical issues that had come up.  There was a nurse at the local hospital that had been extra kind to Alex.  Alex wanted to repay her kindness by surprising her with a nice card and a gift card to the local Starbucks.
The nurse was so surprised to see Alex, and when Alex presented the nurse with the card and gift card, the nurse got a little misty eyed, saying “rarely do I ever hear the words, “Thank You.” Thank you Alex for thinking of me and taking the time out of your day to brighten mine.”
Alex and the nurse chatted for a bit.  Alex told the nurse about the Random Acts of Kindness idea at which the nurse responded with great enthusiasm.  They said their goodbyes and Alex headed home.
Meanwhile the nurse was at the midway point of a graveyard shift and on her break decided she would walk across the street and grab a coffee with the gift card Alex had given her.  She thought it would be a nice treat to get the 3 girls she worked with a little treat too.  So she bought them each a little goodie from Starbucks.  As she was standing in line to pay she overheard a man asking the cashier what sandwiches they had for under $3.  The nurse, again thinking back to what Alex had said about Random Acts of Kindness, pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to the man.  She paid for her coffee, and goodies for her co-workers with the gift card, and left.
A few weeks passed by and Alex stayed true to the vow of doing Random Acts of Kindness every day.  Alex could not believe how much it was changing day to day life.  Little, seemingly trivial things were making the biggest of differences. 
One day Alex made it a goal to smile and say good morning to everyone, especially those who seemed like they were not having the best day.  Alex was shocked to hear how many people responded back by saying “thank you.”
On yet another day, Alex decided it would be, “be considerate to other motorists/drivers day.”  All day that day Alex was more patient than normal, always yielded, used a blinker, and never insisted on the right away.  Alex was amazed to see many people waving and flashing smiles of appreciation all throughout the day.
A few more weeks passed, and Alex decided it was time to perform a little Random Act of Kindness, for Alex.  After all, if we are not kind to ourselves, how can we ever consistently be genuinely kind to other people?
Alex decided to cash in the buddy pass that the old lady had given and take that trip to California to escape the cold winter weather.
When Alex boarded the plane, Alex overheard a couple asking a man if he would be willing to give up his aisle seat so that they could sit together.  The man folded his arms and shook his head no.  Upon seeing this, Alex approached the couple and told them that there was an open seat in the row that Alex was sitting in and that they could have Alex’s aisle seat.  The couple thanked Alex.
Alex walked away smiling and sat down in one of the seats that had been vacated by the couple.  The person sitting next to Alex, commented, “I saw what you just did for that couple that sure was a nice gesture.”
To which Alex responded, “it was no big deal really, I still have a seat and look how happy it made them.  Seeing them happy is worth more to me than 20 aisle seats.”
The stranger pressed on, “No, I mean it, you just do not see enough people doing little Random Acts of Kindness like that very often.  I really respect what you did.”
“Well thank you,” “my name is Alex.”
“Jamie.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Jamie, what is taking you to California?”
“I am treating myself to a little vacation.  I needed to take a break from the cold.  I was supposed to be on the earlier flight, but when I was walking through the airport, this nice lady stopped me and asked for my help.  She could not decipher the flight boards.  You know how confusing those things can be at times.  Well to make a long story short, I stopped to help her, we got to chatting and the next thing you know, I missed my flight.” Hahaha Jamie said with a laugh.
Alex and Jamie struck up a conversation.  They talked about anything and everything.  Alex told Jamie about the Random Acts of Kindness pledge and Jamie responded by saying that each day, Jamie begins the day with the intention to try and doing something nice for someone else.
“After all,” Jamie said, “You never know where life will take you.  If I had not stopped to help that lady in the airport, I would not be sitting here next to you.  Much in the same way if you had not so willingly given up your seat to that nice couple, you would not be sitting here next to me.”
The hours passed by, Alex and Jamie did not stop talking; in fact, both of them were starting to take a liking to each other.
Jamie was about Alex’s age and obviously a very caring person.  Jamie also must do fairly well financially judging by the designer jeans that Jamie wore.  Alex thought Jamie was very attractive, Jamie had blonde hair and these piercing green eyes.  One thing Alex could not figure out, is why would this attractive, seemingly well to do person wear such a tattered red jacket?  And what was that faded symbol on it, it looks like an airplane?
Alex decided to ask.  “So I gotta know, what is with that red jacket, it looks a little out of style?”
Jamie grew quiet for a moment then took a deep breath…
“A little over three years ago my Mom was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  Within a matter of weeks she went from being the life of the party to completely lifeless.  One day I got a phone call from the hospital saying that they believed my Mom would be dead in a matter of hours and that I needed to hurry over there if I wanted to say goodbye.”  “On the way to the hospital I tried to call my Grandma, but she did not answer.  You see she worked in the airline industry as a flight attendant and was midflight somewhere.” 
“I was so upset about Mom, and about Grandma not picking up that I was not paying attention to the road in front of me.  I looked up at the last minute to see a dog in the middle of the road, I swerved to avoid it, but ended up with a flat tire.”  Jamie began to tear up as the story continued…
“I started to panic, I got out of the car contemplating running to the hospital when these two nice people pulled over to the side of the road to help me change the tire.  You see, I did not have the proper tools in the car.  I was amazed these people did this because, well you know, for them to take the time to help a complete stranger… as I watched them change the tire, I vowed then and there to always make the time to help other people a priority in my life, no matter what.”
“Well these nice people were just finishing up with the tire when all of a sudden a car came around the road.  You see we were stopped at this blind turn and there was no way that the driver could have possibly seen us, and he, he…”
“He swerved to avoid hitting you and crashed into a tree.”  Alex said, finishing Jamie’s sentence
“He was killed on… wait, how did you know that?” 
“The driver was my Dad,” Alex said.  “He was on his way home to give my Mom a gift for their wedding anniversary.”
“Alex, I am so sorry.”  “Your Dad, he saved my life, you know.  He also saved the lives of the two strangers that helped me.”  “We ran to the car, but there was nothing we could do, your Dad was dead.”  “The two strangers took down my information and told me they would stay with your Dad and the car and that I needed to hurray to the hospital to see my Mom.”  “My Mom died 30 minutes after I got there, not only did your Dad save my life, but he made it possible for me to say goodbye to my Mom.”
“For the longest time I have been so angry at those people who my Dad avoided hitting.  I blamed them for his death.  I always felt that Dad’s death was so meaningless, that it did not need to happen.  I never stopped to think about what may have been going on in their lives, or that there was a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose behind Dad's death.”
“Your Dad is a hero Alex.”  “We had only been there a few minutes, no more than 10.  I have wished, so many times over the last 3 years that your Dad had driven by there 10 minutes earlier.”
“What about the jacket?”
“The jacket?” Jamie asked, “I was wearing the jacket on that day.  It was a gift from my Grandma.  After my Mom died, she quit her job at the airline industry; she had been working there for over 30 years.  She was so angry, that she blamed her job for not allowing her to say goodbye to her daughter.  She suffered all sorts of health problems as a result of the guilt she felt.  Most recently she has become color blind.  Anyways, I wear the jacket to remind me of that day, to remind me of how precious life is and how important it is to do my best to live each day to the fullest, no matter what.”
“Fate has obviously brought us together for a reason.”  Alex said.
“I agree.” Said Jamie
As the plane landed Alex and Jamie exchanged phone numbers and parted ways.  Only a matter of hours passed until they contacted each other.  They spent the remainder of their vacation in California together.
One year later…
Alex and Jamie have just been approved to move into their first home together.  The real estate agent just gave them the good news.
“I can’t believe we got approved for this house!” Alex exclaimed
“Thank you so much sir,” Jamie added
“You are both very welcome.” The Real Estate Agent replied. 
After all the papers were signed and the Real Estate Agent turned the keys over to Alex and Jamie, both Alex and Jamie insisted that the Real Estate Agent stay and celebrate with them.  After all he was so kind and helpful to them.
“I would love to,” the Real Estate Agent said, but I have a commitment I must keep. 
As the Real Estate Agent turned and started pushing the wheels to make his wheelchair move, he stopped and looked back at Jamie and Alex.
“You kids know that you are the first people I have sold a house to?”  “A few years ago I was homeless and felt like life was over.  You see the war took my legs and society was not to fond of Vietnam Vets.  It made it really tough for me to find a job. Hell I was actually planning on killing myself.  One day this guy, who was clearly in a hurry, took a few extra minutes out of his day for me.  He went into the store and came out and gave me a bunch of food and a book.  I was speechless that someone would do that for me.”
“And, get this, the book was called, “How to Become a Real Estate Agent.”  “At first I scoffed, me, a Real Estate Agent, but then I thought, why not?  If this guy believes in me enough to buy me food and give me this book, maybe I should try to believe in myself.”
“I never saw that guy again.  I always hoped I would, I wanted to thank him.  You know, I have never told anyone that story, but for some reason I felt like I needed to tell you kids.  I guess the moral is, never underestimate the power that an Act of Kindness can have on another human being.  You two, Me, we all have the power to change the world.  We all have the ability to be great and do great things.  You know why?  Let me tell you why: Because the power of Love and Kindness exists in each and every one of us.  We just have to choose to use it.”
And with that, the Real Estate Agent turned and wheeled away.  Alex and Jamie stood on the doorstep of their home, arm and arm waving goodbye to the once homeless Vietnam Vet who had just sold them his and theirs first home.
“It’s amazing don’t cha think?” asked Jamie
“What?” asked Alex
“That man’s story, how a little Random Act of Kindness by a mystery man had the power to change his life.”
“He is absolutely right you know,” Alex said as he reached into his pocket.  “My Dad had this in his hand on the day he died,” as he showed Jamie the necklace.
“The power of Love and Kindness exists in You.”
“In certainly does,” said Jamie, “It certainly does.”

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,

Jesse