Kindness

Dale Carnegie quote

Dear Readers & Friends,

This week a lot has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about love because it’s Valentine’s Day. I’ve been thinking about the people who are involved in my life and who are most important to me. And I’ve been thinking about kindness. Kindness is what I decided I wanted to focus on most in today’s post.

This Saturday and every February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day, and the week including Random Acts of Kindness Day is Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) week as well. RAKs are simple to commit. Most of the time, they don’t cost any money. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing a smile or a friendly greeting; another time it might be surprising a friend with tickets to the movie they’ve been looking forward to going out and seeing.

What I love most about a RAK is how long it can and will be remembered. I remember years and years ago a huge RAK that made a deep impression on me. There was a couple in our church who were going through a really difficult time financially. The husband had terminal cancer and was in a lot of pain and suffering. His wife was working full time as an ESL teacher. They lived in the suburbs of Erie in a rented flat and owned a car that always seemed to need something repaired.

Enter my amazingly generous “aunt” Linda. Linda & her husband Bob had never met this couple, but heard about them from my parents. And aunt Linda and uncle Bob decided that they wanted to bless this couple who was struggling along the path of life by anonymously buying them a new car. There were a lot of reasons for the transaction to be anonymous. First, my aunt and uncle weren’t doing the favor for recognition, but second, they were gifting a car to total strangers. Aunt Linda and uncle Bob have, over the years, purchased many cars and school clothes and college educations for various people, strangers and almost-family members alike. It’s just what they do. And they love it.

My parents were the go-betweens for the vehicle exchange. I will never remember the rainy afternoon when we picked up our friends. I can’t remember under what pretext we told them we were spending time together. We just told them we had a surprise. I could barely contain my excitement as we neared our destination. In fact, I remember suppressing myself from blurting out the secret any and every time we passed a dealership.

We pulled into the parking lot of a Mazda dealership on Peach Street in Erie, and my dad turned around and told our bewildered and ecstatic friends–friends who desperately needed good news in their life–that someone–a stranger–had bought them a brand new car.

You have never seen people more shocked in your life.

That’s what I love about kindness–how shocking it is. In life, we expect ups and downs, good things and bad things. But kindness, when we see it, is somehow almost always surprising.

You pull up to the drive thru window, credit card in hand, and hear from a smiling barista, “Actually, the person ahead of you paid for your coffee!”

You do a favor for someone in your office and the next morning, your co-worker brings you cookies or flowers, just to say thank you.

You start a new job the week of your birthday and your new boss takes note of your birthday on your employment paperwork and buys you a gift card.

My love language is giving & receiving gifts. I am that person every year who starts Christmas shopping in September because I’m always on the hunt for “the perfect gift.” Because I love giving gifts, I’ve started to look for excuses to give on a regular basis. And I’m pretty sure my aunt Linda would be proud of me, because my favorite thing to do is give gifts to strangers.

To donate to Fistula Foundation to help a woman’s healing.

To donate to NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program and give educators the tools they need to help the story-tellers in their classrooms.

To volunteer at Gleaners with my church, feeding the homeless.

And you don’t need to give money or time. You can give a smile. You can give a hug. You can give your ears to listen.

But whatever you do… do give. Do be kind. Do surprising things for other people. It makes the world a lot better place.

You never know what someone else is going through. So be kind… always.

With much love, and kindness, and random surprises tucked under my sleeve,

Camille

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