Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

. . . or, Rachel the Cynic.

This morning, I was once again headed to work feeling very misanthropic. We’d gotten 8 inches of snow overnight, and because this Texas girl isn’t used to having to navigate in such conditions (“Hey, Chuck, is that dust or a snowflake floating around there? You think it’s dust? Hrm, well, we better cancel everything anyway, just to be safe.”), I was soaking wet and running late after having dug my car out of the snow. One of those days.

Things got better in the afternoon, when a husband and wife duo came in to do a juggling act. Were it not for the fact that they declared they were 40 years married, I would have said they must have been no older than 50, but I suppose considering that fact, they must have been in their 60s. For some reason, it made me want to cry (and NO, this has nothing to do with hormones). I think it had to do with joie de vivre. This couple was jumping around, shouting, hula-hooping, juggling, swing dancing doing all sorts of ridiculous and dorky things, and having a ball (no pun intended) all the while. I think their routine would have worn me out, and I’m half their age. So there I am, leaking from my eyes as I watch this silly couple juggling to “Five Foot Two with Eyes of Blue,” admiring them for their spunk and energy, if not for their sequined attire and choice of pastime.

Eventually, it came time for me to leave work. As I went out to my car, I noticed I’d been parked in pretty closely. Now, in Texas we have parking lots. In Pittsburgh, people parallel park. I’ve done that once in my life: on my driver’s test (with my driver’s ed teacher barking commands at me), and the thought terrifies me. So, I’m again feeling a little grumpy.

Out of nowhere, a man appears, and before I know it, he’s brushing snow from my car. “You go ahead and warm her up, and I’ll get it taken care of out here.” He proceeds, with great care, to brush the rest of the snow off my windshield and hood, even taking time to chip the ice off my wiper blades, which I am always way too lazy to even think about. After he finished, I shook his hand, and he asked if I’d need him to help me get her out on the road. I said no, at least I’d be going down hill in the snow, and he said, “Well, that’s my truck in front of you, so I’ll pull up as far as I can,” which he did. I got out perfectly well, honked and waved a “thank you,” and left feeling bewildered. Did you know that there are people out there who just do nice things for other people for no reason?

Enter Rachel the Cynic. Now, this doesn’t paint a flattering picture of me, but I started to second-guess his intentions. Obviously, he had a guilty conscience. He must have bumped my car on the way in, and felt bad about it. Or he was just trying to steal my car, building up my trust while he dug me out. What a sick—

Then I snapped out of it.

When did I become such a cynic? I have always thought of myself as someone who believes the best about people, that everyone is inherently good, and trying to do the right thing. How, at 26 years old, am I so jaded that I can’t let someone do a small, simple act of service without questioning his integrity?

Yes, there are a lot of terrible, horrific things that happen in this world, but there are also wonderful, miraculous things. There are kind, loving people, who just try to do the right thing, even if no one expects them to do anything.

I need to try harder to be one of those people.

"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

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