A few weeks ago, something happened on my way to work which woke me unexpectedly from my bleary eyed, pre-caffeine, vertical slumber. I was waiting in line to buy a nutritious breakfast (a sugar dusted almond croissant, since you ask) from Starbucks when the chap at the front of the queue stopped, mid-order, peered his head round the door and asked the man sleeping rough outside if he would like any breakfast. The homeless gentleman accepted, requested a muffin and a black coffee, expressed his thanks, and that was that.
It was a quick exchange, yet this simple act of unexpected generosity and thoughtfulness so early in the day had the effect of snapping a room full of cranky, coffee deprived Londoners out of their reverie and away from all thoughts of deadlines and deliverables. “Isn’t that nice?” we all said to ourselves (not to each other, as Londoners that would be breaking The Rules), “you don’t see that everyday”.
Because the simple fact is, random acts of kindness do surprise us, because we really don’t see them everyday. Acts of news worthy, Tom-Cruise-style heroism and bravery are promptly revered (and deservedly) celebrated; but why do we never talk about the day-to-day, slightly mundane but nevertheless beautiful acts of random kindness between strangers?
Okay, so a cup of coffee and a pleasantry in Starbucks won’t change somebody’s life; we all know that. But when did acts of thoughtfulness become so anomalous with daily life?
It’s about time that we started making a shining example of those everyday benevolent heroes. If I knew Starbucks Hero Dude’s name I would start with him; but sadly I don’t. Happily, there is an ocean of RAK collateral floating cheerfully about the cyber-sphere; and here are a couple of my favourite recent stories.
In more confectionary themed benevolence, comes this story from Heavenly Donuts, in Massachusetts, where local citizen Eileen Taylor reported a chain of kindness. (And donuts, I suspect.)
She says in her interview, “there was a woman ahead of me and she paid for my drinks, and I thought that was really cool.” Returning to the shop the next day, Eileen decided it was only fair to pay the favour forward, coughing up the cash for the drinks of the next person. 55 customers later, and the chain was still going, as car after car rolled through the drive through, each paying for the next customers order. And according to staff; the chain only stopped when they ran out of customers.
Meanwhile, also in the US, a couple have set Facebook buzzing after announcing a rather more creative road-trip alternative to “I-spy”, as they made the long drive to a family reunion in Wisconsin. Jennie Pawlowsky and her husband decided that they wanted to make pit stops, each time committing a random act of kindness to an unsuspecting individual. Accompanied by two friends, they have even been collecting gifts to give away to people they meet on their three day trip, including flowers and cash. Their friend added, in an interview (which you can watch here), “they may give some kisses away to strangers too”. (I should point out that pplkind are not in any way advocating or endorsing that you make a habit of snogging strangers. Unless that’s your thing, in which case, all power to you).
And finally, another story from the US, a police man who happened to be passing by a homeless man, without any shoes in freezing weather, proceeded to go into the nearest shoe shop, purchase a $75 pair of all weather boots out of his own pocket, before returning to the street, and placing the shoes and socks on the mans feet.
The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.” You can see the full story here.
So I hope when you are next in a mid-morning grump, perhaps squeezed in an undignified fashion between two sweaty commuters en route to work, that you might think of these stories and smile, and most importantly be inspired to do something nice; just for the hell of it.