At first he was a little suspicious as I approached him, his car still idling in a clearly marked Fire Lane outside our modest Fairview post office. Having spent much of the past week with my 90-year-old father, I could tell this man had surpassed him by a few years. He was alone, struggling to climb out from behind the wheel of his Mercury Marquis, wearing sunglasses so dark I could only wonder how he could follow the yellow line down the middle of the highway.
“Can I give you a hand?”
“No, not necessary,” came the reply as he straightened up, reaching for the back door of his car.
I stood there, unconvinced, but also unwilling to offend this gentleman either. But when he leaned against the door frame to reach in for his walker, I couldn’t help myself.
“Here,” I said, as nonchalantly as I could, as if I did this sort of thing a dozen times a day in front of the post office, “let me get it out for you.”
He still remained reluctant, but stepped back, giving me room to slide his walker across the back seat and unfold it before him on the sidewalk. He looked back into the car, staring at the worn cotton satchel on the seat. I could see an envelop, one looking much like the birthday card I had just mailed to my sister, sticking out of it. Without asking, I leaned back in, brought it out, and hooked it over his outstretched arm as smoothly as if we had rehearsed the move several times together.
“Yep,” he replied with a smile. “Got to go see what bills are a waitin’ me.” And with that he shuffled off toward the post office, pivoting as deftly as a freshman point guard to nudge the door open with his shoulder, swinging his walker ahead of him as he stepped inside the building.
I was reminded then, as I often am, of one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Practice random acts of kindness.”
Mine wasn’t going to earn me a medal or any reward. Didn’t even garner an approving nod or a smile from anyone in the parking lot. But, selfishly, it made me feel good, and that was worth a few minutes of my time.
On the drive home I was also reminded of a friend of mine who routinely dines out, taking care, as he settles into his booth, to study the other diners around him. He knows exactly who he is looking for: a single dad or mom feeding her kids, or a set of young parents exchanging worried glances as their kids excitedly announce their menu selections to one another.
And then he waits until the moment is just right, motioning their waitress over, quietly asking for the family’s bill, and just as quietly paying for their dinner without so much as a glance in their direction as he slips out the door.
A random act of kindness.
So desperately needed in our world today.
Until next Monday,
Watch for your turn. Then take it.
Top: My father William, age 90, and my mother Marcia, now 85, holding their fourth great-grandchild at his recent birthday party.