Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day.
I like random acts of kindness. I’ve experienced a few.
The woman who gave me £2 when I was short for my train fare.
The bus driver who drove me and my three-year-old to the door of the doctors surgery when we were too sick to walk.
People who just went out of their way to be kinder or more patient or more encouraging than they needed to be.
These things count. They’re not easily forgotten. The woman on the train…that happened about fifteen years ago; the bus driver…well, that’s more than twenty years ago now, but I still think about it. I still appreciate it.
And I do my best to pay it forward whenever I can. I can’t go back to thank those people who have shown me generosity or kindness, so I try to go the extra mile when I get the opportunity. Even small things—perhaps especially the small things—can mean so much, and there is a sense of, maybe not pleasure, but contentment that can be found in doing something nice for other people.
Thinking about it, acts of kindness are where at least two of my stories start.
Caleb could have turned Jacob away, it would have been common sense to say no.
Aaron could have put his head down and walked on by, leaving Dylan to his grief.
Both these stories start with acts of kindness and end with love. Although kindness in itself is an expression of love so maybe they start with an act of love that snowballs into something more.
Anyway. It just seems like we could all do with a little more kindness in our lives right now, so perhaps consider doing something nice for someone else today. Because, hey, you never know when you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of some random kindness just when you need it the most.
He was almost at the far end of the bridge, still humming, absorbed with trying to place the tune—it was reminding him of a commercial but he couldn’t think which one—when he saw a shape move in the shadows of the bridge. For a second he thought he had imagined it as the few other people using the bridge didn’t seem to notice, but then the movement came again.
Under normal circumstances, he would have walked on by—keeping his head down in the approved posture of people who didn’t want to get involved—but for some reason he was struck with anxiety rather than fear. Taking a more brazen look, he could see the shape of a person, darker within the dark shadow. He was somewhat confused as there was fencing to stop people from getting too close to the edge but the shape was on the other side, nestled into one of the concrete pillars where the heavy metal lines that stretched up were anchored to the walkway.
Aaron stepped slowly closer, squinting into the darkness, satisfied that it was a man sat on the edge, not some demon or zombie, Just a young guy hunched over, looking down at the water below, his hands gripping the lip of the parapet as he let his legs dangle over the edge. From what Aaron could see of the face beneath the hood of his sweatshirt, illuminated by the lights reflecting off the water, the guy looked eerily calm. The second-hand light made him look a little pale, but his mouth was set in a position of such quiet determination, when his weight seemed to shift forward, Aaron’s heart leapt into his mouth. Panicking, he stumbled towards the rail of the bridge, digging into the pocket of his coat and did the first thing that popped into his head.
The shadow-shape jumped and pushed himself back from the edge to sit heavily on his tailbone with a sharp exhale of breath as Aaron lunged forward with his hand outstretched. The guy’s head whipped around, causing his hood to fall away revealing a shock of auburn hair, and gray eyes that glared at Aaron. Aaron who was standing there, one hand gripping the security fence while the other held out a crumpled packet of pecans that had somehow found its way into Aaron’s coat pocket earlier.
Aaron thought he saw a fleeting look of recognition in the man’s eyes, but he figured it must have been a trick of the light when only disbelief and confusion showed on the man’s scowling face. “What?”
Aaron jiggled the packet in his hand, making the nuts jump and rustle. “Would you like some nuts?” He swallowed hard knew full well that he probably looked like an idiot, or a crazy person. Or both. He could definitely blame the whiskey in the morning.
The guy tilted his head, looked Aaron up and down. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He sounded more astonished that Aaron was speaking to him than at anything Aaron was saying.
Aaron’s arm wavered in the air. As he brought his hand down, the motion stuttering and unsure, he sighed. Rolling the packet up and stuffing it roughly into his pocket, he nodded, keeping his eyes on his task, muttering, “No. No, of course. Stupid idea. Sorry.”
He expected to see anger on the man’s face when he raised his head, but the man looked sympathetic, guilty even. Something about the softness in the guy’s gray eyes shot a bolt of courage into Aaron. The eyes or that last whiskey, Aaron never could decide which. “There’s a diner ’round the corner. I could do with a coffee. You wanna join me?”
The guy narrowed his eyes, and leaned forward, shaking his head and asked in the most incredulous tone, “Who are you?”
“You can call me Clarence,” Aaron said, feeling immediately foolish. He didn’t mean to say it, the words just popped out, showing him up as the gigantic dork that John had always accused him of being.
For a moment, Aaron thought maybe he should brace for a punch or attempt to break into a run, but then the guy’s mouth slowly stretched out into a smile that seemed to take them both by surprise, and a short, shocked laugh escaped the guy’s lips. He shook his head, still half-laughing as looked back out over the water. There was something painfully sad about him in that moment, seeing his shape broken into pieces behind the fence. But when he sighed, all the tension that had been in his body seemed spent. He took a deep breath, needing more than a moment to make his decision, then sighed as he pulled one long leg after the other over the parapet. He shimmied along to a small gap in the fence partially hidden by some foliage, squeezed through and dropped down onto the pavement next to Aaron. “Well, Clarence, I can’t really say no to that, now can I? Even though you’re a little early.”
The sad smile that flashed when Aaron got his first good look at the guy’s face was really something. Something strangely familiar, actually. It made Aaron’s breath catch in his throat for a second as the guy brushed past him. Aaron was so stupefied by the moment that he ended up having to jog to catch up with the figure striding ahead.