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May 13, 2011 > Simple acts of kindness

Simple acts of kindness

By Suzanne Ortt

Acts of kindness are usually simple and easy but can also be complex.

In mid-March, Alonzo Mourning performed a kindly action, which became complex because of his fame as a professional basketball player. Driving on a busy four-lane street in Miami, he noticed a disabled woman waiting to cross. Mourning pulled his SUV to the side of the road and stepped into the crosswalk. With his long arms and imposing physique at six foot eleven, he stopped traffic. The woman proceeded to the center median; then Mourning repeated his action, facing traffic in the opposite direction. Many drivers recognized him and honked and waved in appreciation.

If an ordinary citizen performs a simple act of kindness, he probably will not make the news. This random action however, would be greatly appreciated by the recipient and although ordinary occurrences, these acts of kindness are infrequent enough to cause gratitude when they occur. Here is a sampling from an informal survey:

One driver allowed another car to merge into his lane when traffic was heavy on the freeway. Numerous perceive this as a simple act of kindness.

A customer in a checkout line with a full basket of merchandise allowed another with only a few items, to go first.

Saying "please" and "thank you" is an easy and appreciated action. Equally remarkable are people holding doors open for others. Count these gestures as acts of kindness.

In a true story, an elderly woman boarded a bus at the Union City BART station. Tired and damp, she had just returned on a Portland, Oregon to Oakland flight. As it had begun to rain, she was grateful to have a seat on the bus. This was the last leg of her journey. At one stop, the bus filled with Logan High School students, jamming the aisles and the front area. As she approached her destination, she began to worry. How was she going to get through the crowd with two pieces of luggage to get off the bus? At her stop, miraculously a teenaged boy asked, "Do you need some help, ma'am?" Gratefully she replied, "Yes." The kind teen cheerfully carried her luggage off the bus before re-entering. A very thoughtful student solved her problem. The woman was so thankful. Her simple but heartfelt "thank you" was not nearly enough.

Within the past year or two, a local jogger benefited from two kind actions. Once, while running on a sidewalk, two teenagers, approaching him, actually separated and passed on either side of him. This was unusually thoughtful. Similarly, on another evening, a man was walking his dog. The runner recounted that as they neared one another, the man moved into the grass some distance away, held the dog firmly and talked to the dog so he would not bark.

In an account of a good deed from 45 years ago, a young tourist was traveling via bus across the USA with two girl friends. The bus arrived at a little border town in Ohio around midnight. The only place open was a truck stop and since they had little money, spent the night there drinking coffee.

The waitress kept bringing huge plates of food to the truckers. The three girls were talking in German about how hungry they were. Jokingly, they contemplated snatching some leftover food from plates before the waitress cleaned up. Unexpectedly, the waitress brought over three plates of food. The girls told her that they had not ordered any food, just coffee. She answered that the gentleman who was just leaving the cafe had ordered the food for them. He instructed the waitress to tell them that he spoke some German and had understood their conversation. He did not even wait for a thank you and the young women fell in love with the USA right then and there.

A cup of coffee, not a meal, endeared one stranger to another. Urgently wanting coffee, a woman stopped at the coffee stand at a nearby Lucky's. Getting behind the man next in line, she began to chat about inconsequential matters. It was an enjoyable conversation; even the cashier chimed in, now and then. Then he offered to buy her coffee. At first she refused, but he was adamant. So the woman accepted the gift and thanked him graciously. Conversing was fun but not flirty. The casual talk made her day and the gift of coffee made her week. He was just a nice guy being nice to a stranger.

"Little acts of kindness make a community wholesome and we will always benefit," added one of the survey responders.

And, usually, these random acts are easy.

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