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Random Acts of Kindness

The path to creating a world of love and kindness will likely be paved by the smallest of steps multiplied by the greatest number of people.



This weekend my family and I were at the airport taking a flight to Mexico for our annual spring break vacation. I was in line at one of the airport restaurants to buy coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Each time I buy myself something to eat, I feel a sense of gratitude, relieved by no longer fearing the financial insecurity that had plagued me for much of my life. This sense of appreciation was certainly present for me this morning, both for the meal I was about to enjoy and the amazing trip I was about to take. Being able to put things into perspective has always been part of who I am. Perhaps it is the gift of an uncertain childhood. Nothing ever came easy or seemed to be guaranteed.


In front of me in this particular line was an older gentleman wearing a fluorescent vest, the uniform of the airport ground crew. When his turn to order came, the cashier addressed him by his first name, and he promptly placed his order for oatmeal and pulled out a crumpled ten-dollar bill. It was clear that this was his morning routine. Without thinking, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’d like to buy your breakfast this morning.” “Really?” he said, clearly surprised by my offer. “You take care of us, so I’d like to take care of you,” I replied. He thanked me, probably not realizing that my offer likely had done more for me than it had him.


I shared a similar anecdote in an earlier post, and I do so again not because I see anything special in what I did. Indeed, there are many people who do way more to care for others than I do. Rather, I share to remind myself (and perhaps you) that the opportunity to change the world we live in is always available. I’ve written before that change is local. Mother Theresa famously said, “If each of us would only sweep our own front doorstep, the whole world would be clean.” In a world torn apart by war, economic inequality, and injustice, our desire to have an impact can overwhelm and paralyze even the most committed person. The path to creating a world of love and kindness will likely be paved by the smallest of steps multiplied by the greatest number of people. And it is the ability to be content with the smaller, unplanned acts of generosity that paradoxically creates the possibility of bigger change.


Tuesday Tips

  1. Periodically, I set aside the time to read something long and unconventional, something that addresses the big questions of life. This post by developmental theorist and writer Jon Freeman falls into this camp. At a minimum, it requires an openness to and interest in learning more about meta developmental theories of mind, consciousness, and spirituality.

  2. My friends are such an important part of my life and well-being. David Brooks does a nice job on the subject of friendship in his recent op-ed, “The Secrets of Lasting Friendships.”

  3. I have to do this. Congratulations to my favorite band Rufus du Sol on their first-ever Grammy for the song Alive. If you haven’t listened to them, I highly recommend starting with watching or listening to their album Live at Joshua Tree.

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