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  • Darren Gold

Be Nice and Be Kind

If you're looking for what you can do to make a difference, there may be no better act than to be kind.

A few weeks ago, Northern California, where I live, experienced more rain in a single day than it had in quite some time. Despite some minor flooding, I decided to take a quick drive to the grocery store. On my return home, I pulled into a gas station to fill up my car. As I was standing at the pump, I noticed a homeless man crossing a major intersection. It was pouring, and he was pushing a cart and holding a plastic bag containing his belongings. Midway through the crosswalk, the bag broke and its contents spilled into the street. Against the loud noise of the torrential downpour, I could hear his frustration as he screamed and cursed his bad luck. And then something miraculous happened. I was overtaken by a deep knowing that I had to help. I left my car at the pump and ran to assist him. By the time I reached the man, the light had turned, and oncoming traffic began approaching us. I held up a hand to make sure the cars saw us and then kneeled to help pick up the man's belongings that were strewn across the road. Upon reaching the safety of the sidewalk, I handed the bag to the man and asked if he was okay. He thanked me and assured me he was fine. We smiled at each other, and I ran back to my car, drenched from the rain, and overcome with a sense of calm and inner peace. Something in me had been stirred and compelled to engage in an act of kindness that I could only hope to have received had I been in that man's shoes. As I began my drive home, I realized something was still tugging at me. When I had left the man, I had reached into my wallet to offer him some money. I had chosen to give him the $8 that I had in small change and to keep the $100 bill that I had. I could have easily justified that choice, but something didn't feel right. Fortunately, I spotted the man in a Walgreens parking lot searching for cover. I pulled in and called him over to my car. Rolling down the window, I handed him the $100 bill from my wallet. Gone was the financial insecurity from my childhood. In its place, all I could see was a man in need and that I was in a position to help. This past weekend I was on a flight and the attendant came over the loudspeaker to announce the mask policy. At the end of her announcement, she paused and exhorted all of us to “be nice and be kind.” No one loves wearing a mask she intimated. And yet we could all be kind to each other, to her, and to ourselves. The American rabbi and author Harold Kushner had it right when he said, “When you're kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.” If you're looking for what you can do to make a difference, there may be no better act than to be nice and be kind. Whether it's a simple smile to a stranger or it’s rushing to the aid of someone in distress, kindness has the power to change the world. Tuesday Tips

  1. Last week I reported on the passing of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist best known for his work on flow. This past week, we lost another pioneer in the world of psychology, Dr. Aaron Beck, who developed the field of cognitive behavioral therapy.

  2. This article in Psyche, “Moral Molecules: A New Theory of What Goodness Is Made Of,”is fascinating.

  3. Sometimes a book review feels like it’s as good as the book it’s reviewing. I found this to be the case in William Deresiewicz’s review in The Atlantic of the new book, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity.

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