Kindness not random

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The “little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love” that make up “the best portion of a good man’s life,” as William Wordsworth called them, ought not remain “unremembered.”

A Nineties term – “random acts of kindness” – was coined as a sort of antidote, I suppose, to the horrors we see each day on the evening news. It suggests the importance of responding instinctively to the impulse to do right.

Learning that your dinner had been paid for, by a stranger or a friend, and having no idea who did it or why, is a staple of movie plots. If you’ve never received such a graceful gesture, you may believe it happens only in fiction. And you’d be wrong.

It happened to us. The server at Italian Oven recently told us our ticket had been picked up by a gentleman, another diner. A quick survey of the dining room yielded no suspects. We still have not a clue whodunit or why. If I find out who he is, should I tell you? Or does that nullify the kindness?

Among the items I wrote in 1995, there are a couple worth sharing again.

Peki Prince, then a Peachtree City firefighter/paramedic on duty on Thanksgiving Day, called me.

“Can you find some way to let people know how much we appreciated the food they brought by the fire station?” she said. “A young woman brought up a huge tray – she said it was their family’s tradition from up north, and when they moved here they just wanted to do the same thing.”

The tray contained turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, bread – and some of the guys at the other stations got “pies and stuff,” Peki said.

“She was gone before I could get her name. I teared up thinking someone had remembered that we couldn’t be home with our families today.”

On Election Day, an old friend passed on a story I thought needed sharing. If this dear widow were in perfect health, she’d still have had a tough time in life, because she was so tiny – I doubt if she was more than 4-feet, 8-inches tall.

But her courage was gargantuan. She was, you see, dreadfully crippled with arthritis, and the simplest task became a challenge that would daunt a lesser person. She inspired all who knew her with her determination to get out and about, and do for herself.

While grocery-shopping recently, she noted that the Braelinn Kroger store had new shopping carts, and wondered out loud what they’d be doing with the old ones. Someone heard, and passed it on.

A few days later, “the nice manager from Kroger” was at Georgia’s door – with a perfectly serviceable old shopping cart for her to use to move bags of groceries from her car, up a ramp, and into her kitchen.

On a Sunday afternoon golf cart ride, we rounded a curve and saw up ahead two tiny girls at the edge of the path where it passes their backyard.

Spotting us, they quickly took their places, one on a wooden bench, the other standing next to her. This little one raised to her shoulder a miniature violin and as we rolled to a stop, began to play while her companion sang along.

Despite the balmy late Georgia afternoon, their rendition of “Jingle Bells” was downright jolly. In true entrepreneurial spirit, they had opened a velvet-lined violin case at their feet. Dave tossed a quarter in with the other coins.

We asked them how long they had been serenading passersby. “About an hour,” they said. “We have –” and there was a hasty mumbling of math – “We have 72 cents now.”

Dave and I were both thinking of street musicians we’ve seen and heard in faraway places: a cellist spinning out a haunting strain in a walkway beneath a Stuttgart street; a jazz trio on Bourbon Street in New Orleans; steel drums playing Bach on a Caribbean wharf.

We told these babies they were part of a time-honored tradition, street musicians, earning as they entertained.

They were happy just to be making spirits bright.

SallieS@Juno.com

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