When I was a little girl, I remember throwing pennies up in the air so that other little kids would find them and be happy. This was not something my mom or dad taught me; it was something I just did. My parents didn’t mind; I think they were mildly amused. Eventually, I worked up to throwing nickels and dimes and imagining excited, delighted children got even sweeter. The first time I threw a quarter my mother put her hands on her hips, stamped her foot and said “are you crazy, that’s a lot of money!” and it really was way back then. I went back to pennies, nickels, dimes and, of course, an occasional quarter, when she wasn’t looking. It was something that always felt right to me and defined me as a person. I never lost that quality, I just didn’t have a name for it.
Years later, when “Random Acts of Kindness” became popular because of Oprah I had a name for what I have always done. I now paid tolls on bridges for the cars behind me, I paid for a cup of Starbucks coffee for the next person in line. I sent a little boy a gift certificate to Toys R Us after his mom died signed by “a friendly neighbor.” When I heard that one of my on-line friends truly loved a certain book, I arranged for a brand new, shiny hardcover book to be autographed with her name, by the author, who happened to be a family friend. Imagining that book on its trip from the post office to her house kept me excited the entire week.
When my son was about four years old we visited my parents who lived out-of-town. I remember one bright and early morning my son, whom we dubbed ” the farmer,” woke up at 5:30am. Everyone else was fast asleep so I decided to take him out for breakfast, just me and my buddy on a date at a local diner. We ate blueberry pancakes with sweet, brown maple syrup and drank bright orange juice from small, plastic glasses.
In the booth in front of us there was an elderly woman looking cranky and mad and according to my son, “really mean.” We could hear her grousing and complaining often, first to herself and later on to the waitress. I told him that maybe the lady behind us, the “really mean lady” was not mean at all. Perhaps she was ill or lonely or very sad to be sitting by herself on an early Sunday morning. I asked my son if he wanted to play a new game; what four-year old would say no to a game?! I told him about a happy, surprise game that involved doing nice things for others that we could do together.
After we finished our meal we went over to the waitress and we paid our bill. Winking at my son and looking at his big, warm brown, excited eyes, I asked the waitress to please add the lonely lady’s meal and a tip for herself to our bill. I remember the waitress looked astonished and pointed to the woman and said “for HER?” We nodded yes, my little boy’s face beaming. My son and I giggled as we left the diner quickly. We couldn’t let the “lady” know who paid for her surprise meal. Our stomachs were happy, our hearts full and our faces were warm and radiant in the early morning sun. We raced down the steps, sharing a delicious secret, our hands still sticky and sweet, clasped firmly and lovingly, together.
What a nice in all the best senses/meanings of the word. Teaching your son about “paying it forward” (the other catch phrase for random acts of kindness) is a wonderous thing to do. Your thoughtful actions have no doubt put smiles on the faces of the reciepents as well. It’s the little things like that which make the world a brighter, lighter place to be.
Financially, I’ve never been able to do too much. At a local discount grocery store, you get a grocery cart by putting a quarter into a slot, pushing it in with a key (on a chain), and that releases the cart from the tethered row. When you’re done with the cart, you push the key of the cart already there into the back of the contraption on your cart, and the quarter pops back out. I just leave my cart so someone won’t have to dig through their change, or if they need a quarter, they get a free cart, and a quarter back.
Lately, I’ve just been honest: got too much change back, or was given two of an item when I’d only paid for one, etc. Each time, the store clerk has been so pleasantly surprised by my honesty, they keep thanking me over and over.
Keep up the good works!
YOU my kind friend ARE the kindest, most generous person I know. Such a giving heart…I’m proud to have you as a friend! If everyone in the world was like you, what an amazing and loving planet it would be! I got to watch todays Oprah and I felt the same way you did…not jealous (but it would be soooooo cool to get all that stuff! ;))………..but feeling how badly I wish I could do that kind of thing…..to make people so suprised and excited and happy! It’s funny how you say you did that with the coins….cuz me and my son used to and still do leave change in places for others to find in public…just to think about the excited look on their faces…once, years ago…I left a $10 bill on a movie theatre seat! i was so excited thinking about the person who found it!!!! If I was rich I would give to all the charities, but I would love to go to individual needy people and just give them everything they need!!! It would be amazing. Anyway…I loved this entry soo much! You are super cool in my book!!!! Luv ya!!! xoxo