Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pass it on

Too often we forget the importance of kindness in our lives. I never truly appreciated the impact of committing random acts of kindness until I found myself the recipient of one.
My son and I set out on Good Friday on a trip to the U.P., to spend the holiday weekend with my grandmother and an aunt. We pulled into the drive-thru lane at a fast food restaurant in Portage to order a light lunch, something to tide us over until we could sit down for dinner at my favorite pizza place.
When I reached out to pay for our meal, the fast food employee surprised me by pressing change and a receipt into my hand. She told us that the customer in the car ahead of us in line had paid for our meal, and asked that we receive the change. We had no idea who was behind the wheel of the white car with Minnesota plates. We smiled and waved at the driver as they pulled out of the restaurant.
The four-hour trip north passed by quickly while I came down from the emotional high of such an unexpected gesture of kindness. I temporarily set aside my own troubles while trying to think of ways I could pay it forward. Just like a great comeback pops into your head hours after a confrontation, the most obvious solution didn’t occur to me until we’d been on the road for an hour.
I should have passed the change back to the drive-thru clerk and asked her to use it for it the car behind me. She’d looked both surprised and delighted to play a part in that stranger’s act of kindness.
The next day, after catching up with three classmates over coffee while we brainstormed ideas for an upcoming class reunion, I left money with the barista. I told her I was buying coffee for the next person to order, and why.
Harold Kushner said, “When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, ‘Yes, this is how I ought to feel.’”
He’s right. It feels good, even better than being the recipient. I’m already plotting future acts of kindness.
You can, too.
Pay the toll for the car behind you, or drop money in a parking meter about to expire.
Drop off baked goods for police officers, firefighters or teachers, with a note letting them know how much you appreciate their service.
Leave an extra-large tip after eating out.
Finding ways to commit random acts of kindness don’t have to be monetary. Smile at strangers, hold doors open, wave at the people in cars that pass you by or let someone ahead of you in line at the grocery store or bank.
Be generous, but sincere, with compliments.
The Rev. Henry Burton wrote, “Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on;’Twas not given for thee alone, Pass it on.”

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