Saturday, January 31, 2004

Join Me?

The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give.
-Walt Whitman

Have you joined me in practicing a Friday ritual of randomly offering kindness? Random Acts of Kindness = RAOK and Friday is the designated day for giving as stated by the JoinMe non-cult. I'll be honest, I forgot about this until I received an email from a smail pal earlier this evening. (smail = snail mail = land mail) My dear friend was in torment over the kindness she was trying to give an older lady in a grocery store. Here's her story and friend, I hope you don't mind my sharing this. I thought it was too beautiful to keep to myself:

The person in front of me at the check-out stand was this elderly lady. Probably in her late seventies or early eighties. She had blondish-reddish-hair and a few really long hairs on her perfectly wrinkled chin. She bought $53 worth of groceries, and had 8 bags worth. She sighed a little when she paid, having pulled out some bills from her billfold, worn at the edges. She asked the cashier if anyone could call a cab for her. The cashier looked at another and gave each other 'a look' before pointing her to the payphone.

How rude, I thought. So, I offered to help her carry her bags and call her a cab. I called several cab companies, using both payphones and they were all busy. I figured that the phones were broken so, I told her that I'll try to hail her one. I stood outside for about 10 minutes, unable to find one and unsure of where another payphone can be located. I went back to see her, to tell her of my lack of progress and as I turned, I saw her frail hands waving me in sternly.

I came back and she told me that she'll manage. That her sister is nearby and that she could always ask one of the 'nice gentlemen' to drive her home. I told her that I'd wait for her, but she'd have none of it.

So, I left her there. My heart sinking with each step. Unsure of what to do. Knowing that I probably haven't done the right thing. (What if she's still waiting there?)

Oh, Juli. I had to hold back tears as I walked home. I reminded myself that I was overreacting. That she'll manage. Maybe she'll wait for a bit, but someone kind would surely notice and help her get home. I mean, it's not like I'm immaculately nice and helpful, but it's strikes me as sad that most people don't really take every opportunity they can to help, you know? *snip*

My friend wasn't doing this as part of JoinMe as far as I know. She didn't mention it so I believe it just to be the kind gesture she'd offer this person on any given day. She's of a kind heart that way. It's obvious. Her gesture may not have been enough to get the lady home, but it was a kind gesture all the same. She offered assistance to the best of her ability at that time and sometimes, that's all that can be done. I believe that the little something is so much more than the lot of nothing offered by others.

When I was in the corporate world, I had a commitment to myself to keep fresh flowers in my office. So, on Monday, a fresh bouquet went in the vase on the table for me to enjoy. Incidentally, others enjoyed the view as well as the flowers were in plain sight at the end of the hall where my office was located. The point is, I made a promise to myself to do something for me and others on a weekly basis. It wasn't a resolution, per se, but it was a to-do that I took seriously... as I do the Friday RAOK. I can't believe I forgot about that today. Once I read my friend's email, I started brainstorming on what I could do at 7pm on a Friday night. I was wearing my I'm-dressed-for-private-time-at-home clothing, ready to stay in for the night. I couldn't do that. I HAD to make the ROAK effort that I promised myself I'd do. The flowers were habitual... so will be the RAOK in time. After a few brief minutes of burning brain cells, I decided I'd buy someone a coffee tonight. I wrote a note in a handmade card I'd made while in Indiana stating that this was a RAOK and that I'd like to buy the recipient their next warm beverage. I mentioned JoinMe and encouraged them to pay it forward. I tucked a $5-bill in the card and sealed the envelope. I went to Borders because I knew they'd be open late enough to benefit the finder of the card. This was a difficult RAOK, I must say. I'm not confident enough to just walk up to someone and hand them the card. I think in time, I will be, but this is my 2nd week at this so I've got to warm up. Besides, I really wanted to remain anonymous. So, I wrote a note on the front of the envie that said: this is for you! have a great day! I left it in front of the register at the cafe. I ordered a chai latte and walked around the music section. I tried not to watch the envie but I just couldn't help myself. I'd planted a surprise and wanted to see how the finder reacted. The card sat and sat and sat some more. I got back in line and actually heard people talking about it... they thought it was just a greeting for the customers. Remember, I wanted to remain anonymous, so the idea of giving it directly to someone just wasn't an option. I ordered ANOTHER chai latte (can you say caffeine overload??!) and wrote more notes on the envie: TAKE THIS! OPEN NOW! I took my latte and cruised a bit and when I glanced back at the counter 15 minutes later, it was gone. I had to DEMAND what to do! People are funny... they were mildly curious yet cautious. No one wanted to open the sealed envelope for fear of intruding. Their name wasn't on it therefore it wasn't theirs to tamper. I hope that the person who did what they were told enjoyed the mystery... and their next warm beverage.


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