The author Anne Herbert is most frequently credited with having originated the expression "practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." Today this quote is second nature to most of us. It would also seem that many people are not only understanding of this turn of phrase, but carrying it out to its fullest potential as well.Here is what happened:
I found myself waiting in line at a Subway sandwich shop one recent evening. There was only one person behind the counter making sandwiches and, from what I could tell, she was the only employee working in the store that night. I was in line with about 8 or 9 other customers and 3 people were ahead of me. The employee took each order and preceded to create the sandwiches one by one with precision and care. Subway appears to have a systematic approach to making sandwiches allowing each customer to feel like they are receiving specialized attention. This young, lone employee embodied that fact most seriously, taking her time despite the line looming before her eyes. Bravo to her!
Two of the 3 people ahead of me were together. They were a young couple, probably dating and in their late teens. Just as she was finishing up with their order the store attendant turned her attention momentarily to the next woman in line and asked her what she would be needing made. This woman had been standing there the entire time clutching some single dollar bills in her left hand. She asked rather nervously how much it would cost to make a 6 inch versus a one foot sub. She was given a price, seemed visibly relieved, as her shoulders relaxed downward. The store attendant finished ringing up the young couple and they left with their two subs.
Next, she turned her full attention again to the lady in front of me and said "The couple who just left paid for your sandwich." I heard this statement clear as bell and felt my face light up in a broad smile. The woman had no idea what was being told to her. The clerk repeated her statement and you could see the slow dawning of realization on her face as she turned to me and said excitedly " I can't let them go without thanking them!" She quickly ran to the door of the store yelling thank you out into the parking lot. She came back to complete her order repeating again and again how hard things were for her financially right now and that this sandwich was a treat for her daughter. And how very nice it was for those people to pay for her sandwich. She was delighted at the kindness shown to her that day and will probably carry the thought of it with her for some time.
You could also feel how all of us in line felt lifted up by being a witness to this random act of kindness. One woman in line even said out loud "Random acts of kindness really do happen!" and we all agreed! Even the man behind me who up till now was pacing back and forth and clearly wanting to get the line moving faster. He now smiled and relaxed into the moment too.
If this story has helped to inspire you, here is a website devoted to ideas for anyone including students, teachers and organizations interested in providing Random Acts of Kindness to those who need it most. Sometimes the biggest boost we get to lifting our spirits or making our own difficulties seem a bit lighter is when we can do something for someone else no matter how small the gesture.
In the words of that oh so famous Alka Seltzer commercial from the 60's, "Try it, you'll like it!"And just maybe, you will start a trend!