3.22.2008

free

Had to work this week even though it was technically the first week of Spring Break. Ended up in the Kahala area three times due to various bank/pet-related errands ... and each time, as I pulled up to the light at Hunakai, one of two paper boys motioned for me to roll down the window. At first I was skeptical, but when he repeated the gesture I figured maybe it was one of those charity papers, so I rolled it down, and the kid thrust a paper at me, saying it was free, and to have a nice day. The light changed, and I was baffled, and all I could do was say thank you over my shoulder and drive away. Two days later it happened a second time, and today, a third. They never asked for a thing.

Side note: Come to think of it, today a bunch of kids were doing free car washes a block away. Not sure with what organization.

It made me think of all the random acts of kindness that people have done for me - directly, and in passing alike - and how weirded out I am at first. The newspaper thing, for one. Only today was I actually comfortable taking the paper, and when I tried to give the kid a dollar, he skipped off to the next car. Once when I was 17, a man came up to me in Waldenbooks, holding a brown paper bag. He said, "I noticed you were reading Allende. This is my favorite, and I love her so much I wanted you to have it." And he left. Inside the bag was Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, with a receipt sticking out, I guess in case I didn't want it. Another time, I was in Longs, picking out Christmas cards, and the guy standing next to me in the greeting card aisle said, "You're beautiful. Merry Christmas." And smiled and walked away. Isn't your initial reaction to say, "That's skeezy?" Well, I can't explain it, but it wasn't dirty. It just was what it was. I didn't know what to say.

When it comes to these random acts, I, like others, wonder what the ulterior motive is. Do they expect a tip? A date? Something else? I also thought about things that I have done, things I thought were good and right, and how people who cared about me absolutely chastised me for doing them. Because, they said, you just don't do those things for people you don't know. You don't help someone who could hurt you. And anyone can hurt you. Just recently I found myself in an odd kind of trouble for spending time and energy on a person I thought really needed that time and that energy. The resulting mess was a ripple effect that shook up people so far beyond me that I started thinking - and saying - hey, that wasn't my job, and I won't be going that extra mile anymore because it's not worth it.

Can we really function that way - never taking a chance to reach out to someone in need? Of course anyone can hurt you. They can hurt you with words or kill you with a gun or sue you for all the money you have over something that never crossed your mind. They can come to your workplace and scream obscenities at other people for things you did to help their child. So should we live in constant anticipation of regret? After all those things that have happened, I can't. Of course I'm cautious - I do not buy strangers books or tell them they're beautiful in the middle of a drugstore, nor will I spend the same kind of time and energy unchecked as I did before the hullabaloo. But there are ways, means, and innumerable reasons, some unexplainable, to pay kindness forward.

It will always be worth it. Unfortunately it doesn't always mean that same goodness will come back to you, but all the same, the more goodness you put out there, the more goodness there will be. It doesn't get much simper.

"Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway."

2 comments:

Dan said...

karma.

i dunno, i think kindness is something most of us are lacking today, either receiving or giving it. we only seem to acknowledge people by the fact that we step around them, never stopping to tell someone they're beautiful in a drugstore or handing them a book. so it seems so foreign and unnatural that it catches us off balance.
i think it's nice to know that there's still people like that out there.

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