My kids and I witnessed a heartwarming scene on the way to their swimming lessons a few winters ago. As we pulled into the parking lot, we slowed down behind a plow clearing the snow. An elderly woman approached the slippery sidewalk, and the burly snow plow driver immediately hopped out of his truck, hurried toward her and offered his arm to help her slowly and safely make her way to the bus shelter.
I was pleased to share this story with the staff once we entered the building, and asked the woman behind the desk if the snow plow driver was their regular. She grimaced, obviously bracing for a complaint.
She was genuinely pleased to hear our story, but her initial reaction struck and dismayed me, as I was reminded of a widespread tendency to automatically think the worst of people.
Like most parents, I enjoy telling my kids about sincere and surprise considerate acts and feel that this is a small, but hopefully effective way of illustrating what is good in people, and to help them to not be overwhelmed by what is not good.
Luckily, we have people in our lives that provide on-going examples, but I especially like sharing the instances when the thoughtful person is, like the snow plow driver, somebody we don’t even know.
Once, as a friend and I approached a coffee shop on our way to sit down and enjoy an outrageously priced cup of coffee, we passed an apparently homeless man sitting outside. He didn’t speak to or look at us, but my friend kindly asked if he would like a coffee. Surprised, he replied that he would, thank you, and she casually continued with the conversation she and I were having as we went inside and waited in line. She then delivered the grateful man a cup of coffee.
Another time, at the end of our sons’ hockey game, a friend was fussing about getting home quickly to prepare for a house full of company, and hurried her kids out of the arena. My family left the arena at a leisurely pace, discussing the game as we sauntered to our car. About halfway home, we noticed our hurried friend’s van at the side of the road. Worried that there was a problem, we pulled over, but learned that she had stopped to help a driver who was having car trouble. Our friend drove the woman and her children to a service station, and although now much further behind, she seemed calmer than before as she re-embarked on her frenzied schedule.
A friend who directs a kids’ summer camp was recently at a store to buy some cameras for the summer. A man waiting in line overheard her request to the clerk, and asked why she was purchasing more than one camera. She explained what they were for, and why she would rather buy a few for less money, than one expensive one. Before she new it, the man handed his own multi-feature camera to her, remarking that it would be better suited for use at a kids’ camp. Dumfounded, but quick thinking, she asked his name so she and her colleagues could later send a thank you note. No thanks necessary, he said, as he smiled and walked away.
It is undeniably necessary to teach our kids to be wary in today’s world. The stories they hear about “bad people” are generally pretty bad, but I, like most parents I know, hope the bad can be somewhat tempered by the knowledge of small but significant acts of kindness.