Random Acts of Kindness June 30, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

I asked you all what kinds of Atheist Acts of Altruism you do and I heard some really inspiring examples. To be sure, none of these events happened because someone was an atheist (though it gets mentioned). These are just good people reaching out to strangers.

Church members don’t have a monopoly on doing things like this, even if they sometimes act like they do.

I was working highway construction one night, standing in a road closure, when a car came along with a flat tire. Knowing there was nothing ahead for miles, I waved the woman into the closed area. I changed her tire, using the jack from my truck as she didn’t have one. She told me that it was a good thing god had put me there to help her out. Although I tried, I could not change her mind. I would have had god not give her a flat in the first place.

My wife and I do this quite frequently, though I must admit that while I am an atheist, she is a christian. We lean towards helping soldiers when it is not a situation of need or requested help because we are both ex military. A recent example, we were eating out at Red Lobster, after we had finished our meal and were preparing to pay we noticed a soldier fresh back from Iraq having dinner with his young family as well. We simply asked the waitress to bring us his bill as we were going to pay it as a thank you for his service, we paid bill + tip, asked the waitress not let them know until after we had left, and then immediately left.

I’m a recent Master’s graduate. Inspired by your blog post today, I decided to sit down and email some of my old undergraduate professors and tell them how I was using some of the skills I learned from them. (Most of the emails start with “You were right.”)

I take public transit to work. I buy a monthly pass, but I love keeping a few bus tickets in my wallet to give to random people who lost their transfer, can’t find enough change, etc. When I have the opportunity to give one away, I am on a high for the rest of the day.altruism.

I was at the grocery store, and I watched as two young women with a wheelchair bound young girl, and a baby, checked out in front of me. They had one item. It was a box of brown hair dye. The cashier just shook her head after multiple attempts at swiping the card. The group politely left the store, empty-handed. I asked the cashier what was going on and she explained that this group had a really rough day and had gone through a lot of trouble navigating with the wheelchair and the baby. They spent all that time and the card couldn’t even go through.

I considered purchasing the box of hair dye, so I could give it to them. I wasn’t sure I should, though. I mean, what kind of family goes to the store together for a single box of hair dye? Shouldn’t they be grocery shopping to feed the kids?
But I’m not one to judge. Besides, this might really make her day. I bought it, then ran into the parking lot, hoping to still find the group. The young woman cried when I gave it to her. We talked for a few minutes. She is only a year older than me, (19) she is new to town, and she is pregnant. I gave her my cell phone number and I told her she can call me anytime, and I would show her around town or just be there if she needed help.

One reader took a vacation on her own and stopped at a rest area on the highway when this happened:

I was thinking, at the time, that I’d gotten out a whole lot of cash for the trip that I hadn’t actually needed, when a slightly portly, middle-aged black man approached me. He had grey in his beard and was wearing a faded Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts. He introduced himself as a pastor of a church in Sacramento and pointed to an SUV with a similarly middle-aged woman inside of it and asked me if I knew how far it was to Phoenix, and if I thought they could make it there on what was left of their gas (something like 90 miles worth). He told me that they were on their way to St. Joseph’s Hospital there for a kidney transplant, his credit card was already $4,000 over it’s limit and he showed me a spot on his arm where they had to stop at a hospital in Palm Springs to get stitches removed. He was very friendly, and finally got around to asking me if I would donate a tank full of gas to him and his wife.

Now, I’ve been approached by beggars at gas stations before. I know how they act and what they look like and he didn’t fit the bill at all. He gave me very specific information (I knew of the hospital, now having family in Phoenix), and the big old bulging flesh of his arm was very real, as were the marks where the stitches were. I didn’t ask him what his arm had to do with his kidney, but it didn’t really matter to me. My thought process was that if this guy was begging for a tank of gas at a gas station in the middle of the desert (and a vicious wind storm to boot), then he needed my cash far more than I did. I pulled out my wallet and, instead of just giving them a tank of gas, I gave them almost all of my cash. The man was overjoyed when I gave him the money and kept blessing me. He asked me what church I went to, and said that he’d write the pastor there and tell them this wonderful thing that I did. I didn’t even blink, I just said, “That’s not necessary. Good luck and get well.” Overjoyed, he carried the money off to his wife triumphantly. Me? I finished pumping my gas, went inside, got some snacks and went on my merry way.

Needless to say, I’m inspired by everyone after reading those. I hope I can do something like that soon.

So what have you done for someone else lately?

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  • Just general random acts of kindness mostly. Holding the doors open for people, donating to charities, helping out family, driving co-workers, and assisting work colleagues with a family day event at work. I never once think about how I’m inconveniencing myself if I help someone out. It’s part of who I am, I don’t need a god to pat me on the back for my kindness – I don’t even care if the person doesn’t thank me for my help. I do it cause it feels good to help others.

  • I didn’t ask him what his arm had to do with his kidney, but it didn’t really matter to me.

    The bulge in his arm was probably an arteriovenous fistula which was surgically created for the purpose of haemodialysis.

    Great stories, by the way. More!

  • Tania Nelson

    My husband and I took in a whole family for two months. They were friends of ours, and the young man had just gotten custody of his children, because the state of Pennsylvania took them away from their mom. The couple was living in a tiny camper trailer. Good enough for them, but not with a 6 and 8 year old! We gave them a place to stay, fed them and clothed them. We got them on their feet and found them a suitable home. I honestly do not know of any local christians who would have done the same, and there’s a church on every corner in my tiny town. There’s a lot more to the story, but that’s as simple as I can make it.

  • Larry Meredith

    Sometimes for no reason at all I’ll email my mother and remind her that I still hate my father more than her.

  • Definitely awesome.

    I do just general “random” things as well, like holding doors, bringing carriages up that were left in the parking lot, helped an older lady with her carriage once, smiling…. I try to help people if I can, it’s nice.

    It’s strange to think that people think they need a God or a religion to do nice things, though, or that others can’t do nice things without it. — And I think most of them only think that, because I’m sure most of them would do nice things, too, without a God or religion.

  • Darren

    Some friends started a facebook group promoting random acts of kindness. Give it a look/like 😉 http://www.facebook.com/pages/RAOK-Random-Acts-Of-Kindness/158265794241571

  • DPSisler

    During hockey season, I go to the team store at the arena and buy Caps gear (stuff Slapshots, toy hockey sticks, pucks, cards, shirts, hats) and let the kids in my section pick out which they want. I usually do it during the first month of the season, near Christmas, and around the end of the season. Gifts at the arena are expensive, and the parents get as big as a kick out of it as I do watching those kids go through the bag picking out a toy that they never expected – a momento of the game. Thankfully, I never have had a parent say, “God bless you”, but the situation is completely different where you would not expect more than a “thank you” and a big smile. Of course, that is all I want to see….

  • francois

    I did hunger fest at my (catholic) high school 3 out of 4 years there we fasted for basically 2 days and made sandwiches and raised money and food for a (catholic) shelter. I did get service hours but the second year they said they would not be giving any and I did it anyway, of course later they did give the hours and lied to make sure people were doing it for the right reasons and not just the service hours. I also walked a lady home when she could not find the route from the trirail took an hour and a half plus another hour of walking back to my dorm although the first thing my friends asked me when i got back was if i did it because she was hot.

  • Izzy

    Not so random but today is an adoption day for the baby we have in our care since she was 4 weeks old (and turning a year next month). This is our second adoption from foster care (first one was adopted at 17 and she came to our home at 16) in past 3 years.

    My wife’s biological child is almost 25 and adoptive one is 20 and we thought we were done with children 🙂 we were so wrong! We are “stuck” for another 18 years or so 🙂

  • northportphoneguy

    Not really random. I like to walk throughout our town(it’s the best town in the USA) so I pick up litter along the way. I do 4-5 miles on my walk and usually get one full plastic shopping bag per mile. The first few months I felt a little self-conscience, but after 15 years I get a lot of waves and thanks. And of course, a beautiful village.

  • Jennine

    I gave my kidney to a stranger after hearing the story of how this young girl (16 years old at the time of the transplant) had been ill since age 5.

    She graduates from college this year and is ENJOYING life!

    As a side note, my Christian parents were vehemently opposed to the transplant, not out of fear for my life, but because I was “messing with God’s plan” for the girl’s life.

    Leave it to my mother to try to vilify the most generous act I’ve done to date.

  • Sam

    My husband and I try to ‘out do’ each other with Random Acts of Kindness (ROC’s). We aim for one a week and then compare – we can get quite competitive about it!

    Whenever a person thanks me for receiving a RAC I alway say, “Dont thank me, just perform a random act of kidness for a complete stranger and then ask them to pass it on.”
    – Wouldn’t the world be a better place!

  • @Jennine:

    Ugh, that’s terrible. To stop someone trying to make someone else’s life better?

  • Aquaria

    It would take all day to list the charities I’ve contributed to, worked for and raised money for.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve paid bus fares when people didn’t have enough (or any) money. I even get them transfers, if necessary. I’d say it happens at least once a week.

    My house has been a regular crashing pad for friends or friends of my son I’ve taken in when things got too hot at home or they were broke and hungry. One of them is still living with me right now. Back in the 80s, I had so many female friends stay with me when their husbands got out of control that my mother called my apartment the local women’s shelter.

    I buy food every few weeks for the homeless encampment down by the train tracks in our otherwise luxe neighborhood. We also take them blankets in the winter. I haven’t replaced my blankets in at least 15 years, but the homeless people get new ones from me at least every other year, if not more often. Go figure.

  • Aquaria

    I gave my kidney to a stranger after hearing the story of how this young girl (16 years old at the time of the transplant) had been ill since age 5.

    How wonderful! The guy living with me now had a transplant a few years ago–that’s why he’s flat broke. Anyway, his sister gave him her kidney. When he went to get her a thank-you gift at one of the jewelry stores here in town, the Russian owner gave him nearly an 80% discount so that my roommate could afford something nice for his sister.

    A perfect stranger did that to help thank that girl’s generosity, and your family couldn’t even commend you for what you did and ask what they could do to help?

    I don’t get people sometimes.

  • Ben

    You know those folks who stand at the end of off-ramps with a sign that says “Homeless, can you help?” or some such? They get whatever cash I happen to have in my pocket at the time. Gave one of them a $100.00 when I was out Festivus shopping and had the cash on-hand. I can confidently say that I’ve handed out well over $1000.00 over the past 10 years on off-ramps. I don’t get to claim that money as a tax deduction, but that’s not what charity is about, is it? I also get a lot of flak from folks (usually closed-minded, self-righteous Christian types) who claim all I’m doing is fueling whatever bad habit put them on the street in the first place. My response is always the same. “You have no idea why that person is in that situation in the first place and frankly, it’s not your place to judge. There but for fate (no, NOT the “grace of god”) go any one of us.

  • Adrian

    Yesterday I went shopping, went to grab a basket for my items, struggled a little to get one off the stack, as I was about to walk away with my basket I saw a woman waiting patiently for me to finish so she could grab one, I handed the basket I had to her, the smile I got was worth the trouble, and when I tried to get my own it came out much easier… 🙂

  • doglovingirl

    As I’m grabbing a grocery cart in front of the store, if I see someone coming up behind me, I always hand it over to them first, and then get one for myself. But the other day, the person who happened to be coming up behind me was a woman with a cane. She seemed offended that I offered her the cart. She shook her head sharply at me and wasn’t very friendly. I cheerfully said “Okay!” and kept the cart and went on my way, but felt kind of bad. I guess she thought I was offering the cart just out of charity, because she had the cane and was moving slowly… But I would have offered it to anyone who happened to be there. It just seems courteous, rather than running over the person with MY cart and letting them get their own damn cart. You know? Ah well…

  • Artor

    I work at a booth selling fresh cookies at a big music & art festival. We make a ton of money over the weekend and afterwards, we give most of it away to local food banks and peace advocacy organizations. I’m talking about many thousands of dollars a year. A few of the folks in the booth are religious, but most are just happy to help people out regardless.

  • Jen

    I gave a banana to a homeless man outside of the grocery store last night.

  • Star Stuff

    Come September, I will be mentoring at-risk kids through the power of art! It’s a start 😉

  • Mr Z

    As you have probably learned, random acts of kindness are not rarities but a way of living for many people. It used to be called manners or politeness. Treating the elderly, disabled, and infirm with kindness is what you do with your ‘in group’ or should. It was when I was growing up. Offering a shopping cart is cooperating with an in-group member. These things tell the recipient and witnesses that you consider the recipient a member of your in-group. They are the behaviors which made humans successful expressed in modern settings.

    I was taught them as a child and have never abandoned them. Some include:

    swapping places in the checkout line with a person behind me who has one a few items.
    Handing out items (cart, veggie bag, etc.) to anyone waiting for me to finish getting one.
    Offer assistance to anyone who visibly needs it with whatever they are doing.
    Offer a loan of a tool to a neighbor who visibly could use it, or warn them they left a car window open etc.
    Be kind to children where ever I am – and patient with those who have children in tow.
    Thank your mail delivery person. Say thank you to anyone who offers or gives any kind of assistance.

    There are many and very few of them take any time or effort. I don’t think of them as altruism. It is what we do for those in our group. It is part of being human. For effect, repeat that last sentence several times. Now think about why people don’t naturally behave with kindnesses.

    If you are tuned to doing these things, you’ll notice more of them happening around you in life, and when they should have happened and didn’t. That’s not to say that what people have done is not special, only that such things should be more commonplace. Think how much worse disasters could be without these behaviors. Think how much suffering it relieves with these behaviors. I think that might be the difference between Katrina and the Fukushima tsunami.

    I have had people do kindnesses for me and I try to never forget them. It’s probably true that the people you do kindnesses for will not forget it either and it tends to make them feel good about doing similar for others.

  • Mimi

    Just today I saw my neighbor (duplex) on the side of the road with his hood open. We are not super friendly, but I stopped and asked if he needed help. he did not, but he thanked me for stopping. I tend to give my money for charity in the form of animal charities. I love animals very much and feel that since they cannot speak for themselves, I need to be there for them as an advocate. Once I saw a homeless man with a dog and a sign in a Target parking lot. I stopped and gave him $10.00 and told him to get his doggie some food too! I always hold doors, let people out in traffic, carry a package for people who need help and I teach my boys (4 and 6) to do the same things… well except the traffic part!! hahaha I see the rudeness in today’s world and it is upsetting. I want to show my kids what is right. Even if people do not reciprocate. It is worth doing good because you help people and make yourself feel good too.

  • ks

    Ben, I do the same thing. Usually it is just $5-10 that I have on me, since I rarely carry cash, but I figure that they need it more than I do. I’ve even got my kids involved, since last time I did it was at the grocery store and I had the boys with me. The 6 year old asked why I was giving that man money and I just said that sometimes people need help and that if I have something extra on me, then I feel like I should help.

    Then last week we were on vacation in Chicago and there was a homeless man on the street begging for cash. My baby asked for some money to give, because “didn’t you say that we should help, mommy?” I didn’t have anything but my credit card on me, but I managed to dig a handful of change out of the bottom of my bag for him to give. He ran halfway back down the block to give it and was so proud of himself when the man thanked him. And I was one proud mama too.

  • Erin

    I got onto the National Bone Marrow Registry, and donated marrow to a complete stranger. If it weren’t for some of my own health issues that prevent me from doing it again, I’d happily do it for other people.

    It’s just what you do. If you know you can help somebody, you just do it. It has nothing to do with religion or the like it’s just being a decent person.

  • Iris

    We help transport abandoned and neglected animals to fosters who prepare them for new homes.

    We’ve been a foster family for kids and teens and try to be supportive of other families who do the same.

    We’ve volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, local domestic violence shelters and Special Olympics.

  • One time about a month ago or so, I was in the back seat of my parents Yukon, we were parked outside of a local post office and in front of us was this little car, and a little elderly lady was having trouble getting out of her car. I watched for a minute wondering what she was doing, she got out of the front driver side went to the back driver side door and started struggling to pull something out, it was a walker. I got out of the truck walked up to her and helped her fold out the walker then helped her up on the curb onto the side walk, she was surprised that someone would help her. I told her I’d be happy to help her into the post office but she insisted that she could do that her self. I had my parents wait until she came out to help her back in her car. She of course like most in Oklahoma, she said that god blessed me for being a good person. I told her god did not bless me, I just believe in doing what is right, you were in need and I just happened to be here to help.

  • Shawn Phillips

    There is a very nice cashier at the Dominick’s(a grocery chain) by my house. A few weeks ago there was a paper sign on the window congratulating her for 40 years of service. That sign was the only thing she received from the company. I gave her a $25 Target gift card(which I earned by redeeming points I accrued by donating blood platelets and plasma) this morning. She was so happy to get it, but probably not as happy as I was to give it.

  • heide

    My brother and the girl he impregnated were not prepared to be parents so I adopted their son even though I was going through a divorce and would be raising him on my own; I did not want him to grow up thinking no one in our family cared about him.

    As a single mother I struggled but always found ways to give to other people through volunteerism or donations of what little money or food we could spare. When my kids would be with my ex for Christmas Eve I would visit the elderly in the hospital and give them fancy cookies the bakeries would give me so they would have something to give their grandkids the next day when they came to visit.

    later our finances were better I helped a small rural charter school build their sad little library and started a reading program that resulted in at least two non-readers getting super turned on by books. Both were kids that were considered trouble-makers.

  • Dawn

    I’m not one to say God bless if someone were to help me out, but if I did I wouldn’t be offended if an atheist or agnostic were to say that they were such. It would open my eyes instead that not everyone is part of my little bubble.
    Christians are to evangelize, share their faith, etc. Why not atheists sharing their opinion a little as well- “I’m an atheist, but you are more than welcome.”

  • Joe_No_Halo

    A few times a year I cross bridges that span the San Francisco Bay or the adjoining Carquinez Strait and all of them have a toll if you are crossing in a certain direction. Most of the time there is a slight to heavy backup at the toll booths.

    My car trunk has Darwin Fish and Science Fish decals and my license frame says “Godless?” along the top and “FFRF.ORG” along the bottom. If the driver of the car behind me happens to be religious, and of course that’s highly probable, then he’ll maybe think a tad more positive of atheists after one of them has paid his toll for him.

    Also, every December I donate children’s books to the local drive sponsored by the San Jose Mercury News.

  • AyaSka

    I once found a boy, maybe 16, who probably had some mental issues (judged from my observation of him during the whole episode) standing near my house. Maybe it was stupid of me (he was looking at his phone, pacing, twitchy, nervous, but seemed more scared than hostile), but I walked over and asked if he was okay. He said he wasn’t, he had run away from home and had called a friend to meet him at the train station, but he didn’t know where he was or where the train station was. So I walked him there. Through semi-dark streets, at midnight, no people out, 15 minute walk. But despite his ramblings about how he hated his father and was going to send him to jail, I never sensed any hostility towards myself, he didn’t seem violent in more than words. We found the friend, who I think was from some kind of charity/volunteer organization for troubled teens. He thanked me quickly before focusing his attention on the boy. I didn’t exactly turn the boy’s life around, but I think his day (night) was a little less crap than it could have been, at least. Hope things got better for him.

    I agree with Mr Z in that some things you just *do*, out of habit more than out of a conscious case-by-case decision of “this is the Right Thing to Do”. There’s also a cultural factor, I find people here in the UK are much more willing to help you with, say, carrying heavy loads than people in Norway, where I’m originally from. (A big thank you, by the way, to the many kind strangers who’ve helped me with my heavy luggage on the London Underground over the years. :))

    I think the closest I’ve been to “bless you” in a random act of kindness situation is the people who say I’m an angel. I don’t think they mean it literally. 😛 In the UK, though, I don’t think people throw around the phrase “bless you” much. Except when someone sneezes.

  • bob42

    Great stories and good ideas.

    When my daughter was still in a high chair, we went out for some tex-mex. Wife and I were having an argument, and apparently this dude dining alone (probably traveling on business) noticed. He’d noticed how cute my daughter was when she kept offering him chips.

    Ever since, when I’m travelling and notice a couple having trouble, I anonymously pick up the tab.

    I also keep a gadget in my truck that can jump start a car, air up a tire, and power any 12 volt device. I keep a tow rope as well (there’s a $75 mandatory tow law here.)

    After I hook up the tow rope I tell folks to “follow me.” Because of the long hair and beard, one lady thought she had experienced a Jesus sighting. I didn’t burst her bubble.

  • Robbie

    My wife and I were going into the supermarket one day and there was a woman and two of her kids outside handing out flyers. They were requesting food donations to the local shelter. So far they had amassed one shopping bag of some canned goods, but the list had other essentials on it like soap and shampoo as well as food. On the way into the store I grabbed an extra cart and filled it to the top and donated the entire thing.

  • Joe_No_Halo

    A few times a year I cross bridges that span the San Francisco Bay or the adjoining Carquinez Strait and all of them have a toll if you are crossing in a certain direction. Most of the time there is a slight to heavy backup at the toll booths.

    My car trunk has Darwin Fish and Science Fish decals and my license frame says “Godless?” along the top and “FFRF.ORG” along the bottom. If the driver of the car behind me happens to be religious, and of course that’s highly probable, then he’ll maybe think a tad more positive of atheists after one of them has paid his toll for him.

    Also, every December I donate children’s books to the local drive sponsored by the San Jose Mercury News

  • wright1

    Great examples of godless altruism, all.

    Aside from things like picking up litter in public places, holding open doors and the like, I’m a volunteer tutor for the local adult literacy council. My latest student is a Catholic priest from Mexico who was recently transferred up here (central Ca.) by the Church.

    He’s quite well educated, but reads English slowly and has a lot of difficulty with idioms and slang; he’s also self-conscious about his accent. He has come a long way in just 3 months.

    My atheism hasn’t come up, but considering his previous tutor was an agnostic Jew, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal when / if it does.

  • Monika

    I like to do little things to help people when I can. Lately, a coworker of mine has been in such a terrible mood, it’s been bringing down everyone around her. I’m stuck next to her every day. Sick and tired of listening to her mumble to herself and whine about how her life is so terrible, I asked her what she was doing to improve it. She just looked at me and replied, “Well I pray to God every day and hope for something better.” I thought for a minute. Being a Christian myself, I can get how praying can be helpful, but praying for specific things and expecting God to always answer you is a little ridiculous. Finally I said, “Maybe we should have a girl’s weekend, all of us here, and spend the day doing little spa stuffs. Y’know, mani-pedi stuff and hair and make-up, then go out to the bar to show off our gussied-up selves. I bet that would cheer you up a little, yeah?” She started to sniffle a bit and mumbled, “That’s the nicest suggestion I’ve heard in a long while. Praying really helped out, because here you are.” “No,” I responded, “prayer didn’t make me say those things. I said what I said because I care, and everyone’s happiness should be important. I’m just glad I could make you happy.” She doesn’t believe me, but hey. I made a sourpuss smile, and that’s what counts.

  • I always carry spare change for expired parking meters (well, those who haven’t already garnered a ticket- nothing I can do there). It’s little, but it’s a habit. I particularly like that they never even know I was there.

  • Brian Wood

    I have but one prime directive to myself: NEVER inconvenience another.
    (variation on the “golden rule”?)

  • I rescue special-needs cats. A lot of people seem to think that this is a great act of altruism. But in my experience, any pet can develop health problems at any time, so why not get a pet (or two or three) with known health issues? That way, when they develop additional problems, it’s no big surprise. For instance, when my hyperthyroid cat developed inflammatory bowel syndrome, I had no trouble transitioning her to the special food because I already have a cat with IBS – now they have the same diet.

    Sometimes I get a kick out of all the wowwing and awwing that people do when they meet my cats, but sometimes it gets old. They’re just cats. Who need a little extra maintenance.

  • @ Larry Meredith:
    RE: Sometimes for no reason at all I’ll email my mother and remind her that I still hate my father more than her.

    Funny! But, do you hate your father more than you hate your mother, or do you hate your father more than your MOTHER hates your father?

  • Bones

    “I didn’t ask him what his arm had to do with his kidney, but it didn’t really matter to me.”

    One of my best friends needs a kidney transplant and he had to have his arm cut into in order to have some veins redirected into each other so he could have dialysis.
    I probably didn’t describe that right,but it the best description I can come up with with the limited knowledge I have.

  • Sarah

    I’m not affiliated with the site, but I read their newsletter. If you like these stories, check out http://www.heroicstories.com/ Stories about ordinary people and their extraordinary acts of kindness.

  • Nikki

    I can’t think of specific things I have done, but I do try to treat people with kindness every day – a kind word, a smile, a dollar if they don’t have enough money for lunch, etc. I just feel like, if you’re not doing something, even small things, to make the world a better place, what’s the point of you being here at all? (I know people don’t HAVE to have a purpose in existing, but I do think we can create a purpose for ourselves.)

  • The story of the One Peso Smile

    Some years ago I was visiting one of those magic colonial towns southwest Mexico, along with some friends. We had stopped for Ice Cream at one of the very famous ice cream places. It was early afternoon, and the place was almost empty while we sat lazily eating ice-cream, when a couple of kids, a boy and a girl, approached us, trying to sell candy and bubble gum. These were local kids, of indigenous ascendancy, at most 8 or 9 years old, the typical peddlers in such little towns. We refused to buy anything and one of my friends was particularly adamant in his refusal. “We don’t know where the money they get is going”, he said, and I kind of agreed (as a matter of fact, this is the reason why, as of today, I don’t give any cash to beggars or peddlers).
    Well, the place was empty and the kids quit and decided to simply hang around inside the place. Eventually I decided I needed a second ice cream helping and got up to the teller. I had just paid when I noticed the little girl was inside the coin-operated helicopter machine, obliviously playing with the make-believe controls.
    I didn’t even think about it. I simply approached the machine and deposited one of my one peso coin still in my hand. The helicopter surged into life and I believed the little girl was utterly scared for a fraction of a second before realizing what had just happened. She peeked outside of the machine and found me there walking away with a half smile in my face. That was when she gave me the most beautiful, radiant, sweet smile I have seen in a long time. Which I was quick to reciprocate. Then she went back into the helicopter to once again become oblivious of her surroundings.

    My adamant friend told me, as I was seating again “what the heck was that?”
    I simply said “well, I know where my money went, isn’t it?”

    Cheers from the Hippo

  • Demonhype

    Not really me, but I remember when I was attending AiP. A bunch of us students were standing in line for the last trolley back to Allegheny when this one girl walked past and, realizing she didn’t have enough money to get her car out of the parking structure, started asking around apologetically if anyone had any money. I felt so bad because I didn’t have anything on me (at that time I was on a very tight budget with almost everything doled out for something specific, so I tended not to carry any idle money on me). This one guy just opened his wallet, asked how much she needed, and handed her a five dollar bill. She wanted information so she could pay it back, but he said there was no need. I thought that was so sweet of him, since I know I wasn’t the only college student living on limited resources.

  • Rich Wilson

    I put coins in parking meters. Or at lest I did when I lived near a government building that had very short meters.

    I used to fold a lot of origami, and would leave it at various places. A cashier at one store that had a few pieces apologized for giving one away because a kid liked it so much. I told her to please continue, I can make more 🙂 I had lots of people suggest I sell it, but I had a hard rule about that. I knew if I ever sold one, I’d lose all pleasure in making/giving them, so I never did.

  • If I have something nice to say, I say it! Doesn’t matter if they’re a complete stranger or not — if I think the person has pretty hair, or a great smile, or whatever, I just walk up to them and tell them. I told a guy at the water slides the other day that he looked like a great dad. He’d been playing and laughing and splashing around with his young kids.

    Plus all the other basic courtesies mentioned above: letting others go first, helping someone who seems to need help, allowing older/pregnant/etc folks to take my seat on the bus, etc.

  • Sinfanti

    Once I had to make a return at Wal-Mart. I arrived and took a number for the long line at their customer service desk. After a long wait it was almost my number when a young woman with two small rambunctious children walked up and took a number. Her kids were obviously not in the waiting mood. I walked up and said “Excuse me, I think you got my number by mistake.” I took her number and handed her mine. Her reply was, “Thanks, you must have kids.” I didn’t back then but do now, and I’m glad I made her day a little easier.

  • Hugh

    I was driving from Flagstaff to Phoenix when I saw a black woman and two young children standing by the side of the road with a pile of luggage, forlornly trying to hitchhike on a very hot day. I had two dogs in the back seat but I couldn’t just pass by, so I stopped and somehow squeezed everyone and their stuff in the car. The woman was moving from Arkansas to Phoenix for a job and her car had broken down in Flagstaff, and she was desperate to get to Phoenix that night so she could start her job the next morning, otherwise she would lose it. I dropped her off at the place where she and her kids were going to stay, although it was 30 miles out of my way and in a part of town I would normally never go. As I finished carrying in her bags, she took my hand and told me I must be an angel sent by god to help her. I just smiled and said, “Actually, I’m an atheist. But I wonder how many good christians passed you by on the road.”

  • Linda

    Do you believe that you can cancel out a wrong by doing something right?

    For example if I murdered somebody and then afterwards did many right things, would that be enough to cancel out the murder I did?

    Would a good judge let me go free for murder because I did many good things afterward?

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