I know that many of you are with me in my quest to infuse Guerrilla Kindness into the world. I hope you’ve been inspired to be part of my mobile irregular force performing small hit-and-run acts of kindness.
But here’s the truth: it can be hard to be kind on purpose.
My mom had the fantastic (GENIUS) idea of asking family and friends to perform an act of kindness in honor of my sister’s milestone birthday. I was pumped. This was my wheelhouse! This was going to be fun. But, I also knew I had to think of something really special. So…I procrastinated. Then the calendar turned and the countdown was on. One day, I had a long list of errands planned. I was determined that this would be the day for my ‘act of kindness.’ I put on my goody two-shoes and hit the road.
Well, here’s the story as I told it to my sister.
A Kindness for Jenny
(a comedy in four acts)
Act One: Target
As I pull into Target to make a return, four fat blobs of rain hit my windshield. I decide to take my umbrella with me. Good thing, as halfway to the front door, the heavens open and drop a giant load of rain all at once. People are running and screeching in the warm, unexpected downpour.
I cue up in line to make my return. The person ahead of me is a mom with three boys. One, a baby, is perched quietly in his car seat. Another, a toddler, is curled in the back of the cart. He is whining and crying in a repetitive moan, the cry of a child who either skipped or skimped their nap. The preschool-aged big brother is trying to soothe the toddler, which makes him scream louder.
The mom hears the thunderous rain on the roof, and turns to see my soaked shorts and shoes. “Oh course,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Of course it just started to rain.”
Her returns are confusing, her receipts are kerfuffled, her kids are restless.
Finally, she finishes up, and I take my place at the counter. Roused from my standing-in-line stupor, a thought occurs: the act of kindness for my sister’s birthday! This mom is the perfect recipient.
I keep my eye on her as I quickly complete my transaction. She is trying to cover the baby and the toddler and her purchases with one small blanket. I ponder offering to get her car for her, but realize that would be weird. I’ll drive them to her car in my car? Also weird. Okay, how about I just walk next to her with my umbrella, at least helping keep a portion of her posse dry?
Finished, I turn to follow her to the door, where she is watching to see if there will be a let up in the rain. But a small crowd has also gathered there, and it’s hard for me to get up to where she is. I’m making my way, when suddenly she grabs her preschooler with one hand, her cart with the other, and bolts. Pushing past people, I race out of the store after her. My extended umbrella held aloft, I call to her that I’d like to help. But the rain is too loud, and she is so darn fast! What is she, a sprinter? I’m chasing her, and getting soaked, because I’m holding my umbrella out in front of me as if I’ll be able to shelter her from five steps behind.
Then, in my haste and distraction, I am saved by another shopper who stops me before I run in front of a car pulling into the lot.
Act of kindness has been done to me, not by me!
Act Two: Grocery Store
A chance to redeem myself. I’m on the lookout for another harried mom. I’ll never forget those days, when everything was made a gajillion times harder by the constant presence of my little charges.
And there, in the dairy aisle, my opportunity: the distinctive CRASH of a glass jar of pasta sauce hitting the hard tile floor, dropped by a toddler. His mom looks around, embarrassed. She is dressed in a security guard uniform. She looks tired. I spring into action.
Me: Let me go get help for you!
Her (already pulling son out of cart): No, that’s ok, there’s always someone from the store right around here.
Me: Let me leave my cart over the mess, and you take your cart and keep shopping!
Her: No, that’s okay, I’m sure it won’t be long.
Reluctantly, I let her get her own help, and watch her leave her cart to mark the mess. I’m thinking maybe she’s just a really chill mom, and honestly didn’t need my help. But, when her son tries to grab a can off the shelf they’re passing and she snaps, “You’ve already made enough of a mess!” I know that she’s human. So, I give her a big smile and move on. But, a big smile? That can’t be my act of kindness! Not for my sister! I give big smiles out every dang day. I will continue my quest.
Act Three: Grocery Store Parking Lot
I had gotten a good spot when I pulled in. The first spot next to the handicapped one. And here now, loading her car next to me, is an elderly woman. Carefully, bag by bag, she is setting her groceries in her back seat. Elderly woman in the handicapped spot. THIS IS IT.
She has one bag left.
Me: Let me help you with that!
Her: Oh, that’s okay, I’m almost done. (Puts last bag in).
Me: I’ll take your cart back for you.
Her: Oh, you don’t need to do that, dear. I can manage.
Me: Really, I’m taking mine back, too. Let me take your cart for you!
Her: Well, how far is it?
Me: It’s just right over there (two cars away).
Her: Well okay, dear, if you’d like.
I return the carts, and get back in my car. No, I think. My special act of kindness for my special sister cannot be that I walked an old lady’s cart 15 feet for her, when she didn’t really even want my help.
I get in my car, grab a piece of paper, and start to write.
Act Four: Return to the Grocery Store
I’m wandering the aisles, clutching the note I’ve written, which is wrapped around a $20 bill. The note says something like this:
“This small act of kindness is in honor of my sister’s birthday. I saw you in the store, a hard working mama just trying to make a quick stop before dinner. You were so sweet to your son when he dropped the pasta sauce, even though I knew you were annoyed! Those were the hardest days for me, juggling work and small kids. This is for you, to treat yourself. Lunch out, coffee, whatever helps make your day brighter. From, A friend. P.S. Hang in there, bedtime’s coming!”
I finally find her, the pasta sauce mama, just in time. She’s next in line at the checkout. I catch her eye and hand over the note. “This is for you,” I say. “A little surprise. Have a good evening!”
Not knowing what it is yet, she still gives me a huge smile. “And you have a good evening, too!” I quickly leave, feeling so, so good and happy.
I had finally done it. I had captured the feeling my sister gives me and so many people in her life: you are important, you matter, I see you, and I’m here to help.
Being kind isn’t always easy, even when you’re trying. Sort of like how it can be hard to see goodness in the world through all the darkness that exists, too. But it’s there. And we’re here. Just keep doing the little things. After awhile, they’ll start to add up. One candle does not dim when it lights another. Keep bringing the light, friends.