With fall in the air, and the weather getting chillier, we decided to explore a warmer topic in this month’s Stiletto Soapbox: random acts of kindness. It can be as simple as someone opening the door for you at the post office when your arms are full, or a stranger giving you a smile when you need it most. Anyway, here are our favorite tales of kindness, and we’d love to hear yours, too, if you’d like to share with us.
Susan: The act of kindness that sticks out in my head isn’t exactly random, but it’s very special to me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to go through six and a half weeks of radiation therapy, my mom and mom-in-law stepped up, offering to alternate driving me five days a week for the entire span of treatment so “you will never be alone.” I wasn’t yet married to Ed, and the fact that his mom wanted to pitch in like that still astounds me. That my mother would do it was sweet enough. Even as I type this and think of “my two moms” being there for me, I tear up. If I ever need a reminder that there is goodness in the world, I just look at them and know, “yep, there is.”
Maggie: When you're going through something difficult, it’s sometimes hard to ask for help. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn't want any help, but discovered the only way I was going to get through it was to open my heart and accept all the love and support that was offered to me. I had to put aside my feeling that accepting help was weak; I have found the opposite to be true. The first thing I received was prayer, in the form of a beautiful service that was held at my church. That buoyed me as I embarked on a chemo regimen. After that night, three nights a week for two months, meals would arrive at my door from local angels. There were countless other kindnesses that were shown me and that continue to be shown to me.
The lesson I learned was this: just as there is grace in helping others, there is grace in accepting help. How can we feel good about the times when we reach out and help if there is no one to graciously accept our support?
Rhonda (the Southern half of Evelyn David):
The other day this guy who had just fueled his truck at a service station offered to pump my gas, actually reached over and unhooked the gas pump nozzle for me before I could even get out of my car. I said no thanks, smiled, and waved him off. Truthfully, I was afraid to get that close to him with my credit card. Didn't help that his appearance screamed "chain gang escapee." Does it count if you're too afraid to accept random acts of kindness???
Marian (the Northern half of Evelyn David):
I couldn't figure out why I was having trouble coming up with examples of Random Acts of Kindness. Certainly I've been blessed by the kindness, generosity, sensitivity, and caring of family, friends, and even strangers. But what finally struck me is that while I am touched and thankful for these acts, great and small, I’m not surprised by them. What surprises me are Random Acts of Meanness. Fundamentally, I believe that people are basically good; that their instincts are to be helpful or at least not deliberately unhelpful. News of cruelty is so shocking because we don't expect humans to behave that way.
Anne Frank, hidden in a cramped attic for two years to escape Nazi detection, wrote in her diary: "In spite of everything that has happened, I still believe that people are really good at heart." I want/need to believe that too.
Marilyn: Years ago I belonged to a sorority of married women that seemed mostly to be about having parties. I learned about a family with three young kids, one developmentally disabled, and the father had lost his job. They would have no Christmas. I told the sorority gals, and we decided to provide Christmas. Each one of us purchased gifts for every member of the family, wrapped them, and provided the ingredients for a complete Christmas dinner, a Christmas tree and ornaments. We loaded everything into my old station wagon and delivered the goodies to their address. A man was working on a car in the driveway of the apartment house and asked if he could help us. When we told him where we were headed, he said, “That’s my address.” He helped us carry everything upstairs. The whole family was there and watched wide-eyed as we brought everything in. We said “Merry Christmas” and started to leave. The man said, “Wait. Where did all this come from?” I said, “You have heard of Santa Claus, haven’t you?” And we left, grinning all the way downstairs. I still feel good when I think about that day.
Misa: Once when my husband, who was a teacher at the time, was camping, he lost his wedding ring (which was my grandfather’s ring given to us before he died) in the lake. He spotted one of his students at the lake just as he was leaving, and he told the boy and his family about the ring, knowing he’d never find it. The following Monday at school, the boy came to school and proudly held up a gold wedding band. “Is this your ring?” he asked my husband. It was. The boy had spent hours diving and searching the shallow sandy bottom of the lake. And he found the ring! It was so random and so giving.
Just as the mystery community is stepping up to support Kate Collins*, these little moments remind me how loving and generous people can be, how people can band together for a common goal, and take action as an individual or as a group can impact others. I’m proud to be part of a community that supports its members in times of trouble, and I’m proud to adhere to a philosophy of random kindness and caring for others.
*Kate Collins very recently lost her husband, and we want to help her out in this difficult time. She has a newly released title from her Flower Shop mystery series just out: Dirty Rotten Tendrils. Perhaps you could buy a copy for yourself and a second copy for someone you care deeply about or even a library you love in honor of her husband. Here's the Amazon link:
Dirty Rotten Tendrils Flower Shop