Sunday, January 25, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Remember last week when I told you I was sending that afghan to some folks whose house had burned down? Well, I got a thank you note from them already the other day, and here's what it said:

"Dear Ruth,
What a wonderful lady you must be to send a handmade afghan to people that you don't know. We love handmade things and will always cherish this afghan.
We send our love and blessings to you.
Bob & Alice Johnson"

Isn't that a nice note? I thought so too, but it made me think about a couple of different things. First of all, am I some kind of freak? Is it really odd that I would make something for someone I don't know? I'm not going to stop doing it, but maybe people just don't do this kind of thing anymore?

Getting a note like this makes me wish that everyone was just a little bit nicer to each other again. Remember back after the September 11th terrorist attacks how much nicer people were? While I certainly don't wish something like the terrorist attacks would happen again, I DO wish that people would start behaving like they did back then--being courteous, patient, and more appreciative of each other.

Here's another thing that happened this morning that I want to tell you about. We had to run into Rochester for a couple errands. We live along a busy 4-lane highway and there's sometimes quite a bit of traffic, sometimes people will pull over into the left lane and let us on, but this morning after we pulled onto the highway, I was watching in the rearview mirror as a car came speeding up behind us. He got closer and closer and I realized he was about to hit us, but just in the nick of time, the driver apparently realized how close he was and quickly jerked his car to the right shoulder to pass us. Holy crap! I was shaking when I realized how close we had come to getting rear-ended. That almost ruined my morning until we got to Wal-Mart and I saw a car drive into the parking lot that was covered with yellow smiley faces (inside and out). Her license plate was even SMILEE1. She came into the store right after us and I stopped her to tell her I loved her car. You should have seen the smile on her face--she's spreading the "smiley joy" wherever she goes and even stuck a smiley sticker on my coat. A simple act of kindness, but it changed my entire outlook on the day.

So, dear blogging friends, I challenge you to perform random acts of kindness--one a month, once a week, or whenever the opportunity presents itself. I think we all have the power to make a positive difference, no matter how small, every day of our lives. As citizens of the United States of America, I think (hope) we're all looking to the administration of President Obama as a new and positive step forward in the path America is embarking on. But President Obama isn't going to be able to do it all by himself, so let's use these words from his inaugural address as a guide (or challenge) to help make our country strong and caring again--one random act of kindness at a time!

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny."

President Barack H. Obama
January 20, 2009


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Excellent post Ruthie.

barefoot gardener said...

Thanks for the reminder...we all need to remember that even little things can make all the difference in someone's day.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm sure glad you didn't get creamed on the highway. The way some people drive is a fright!!

Mama Pea said...

We need to all remember that not only can a compliment, or kind word, or simple smile make someone's day, but it might be something they remember for the rest of their life. I can attest to that!

Thanks for the wonderful reminder, Ruthie.

Deb said...

Thank you for this post, Ruth. I admired Obama's speech in that he addressed "a new era of responsibility"...I think our nation has been drifting away from personal responsibility too much; think bailouts. I always try to smile and be pleasant to strangers around me. Although I still may flip off that someone who is driving so carelessly!

Lynne said...

I share Deb" opinion tha we as a nation have turned our backs on personal responsibilty. We need to step back up to it. I love your challenge to be kinder.
I'm in.

Kallen305 said...

Excellent post. I try and do random acts of kindness on a daily basis, I can't help it as it's in my blood. The only time I am not like this is when I am driving. I am not an obnoxious driver by any means, but I am not that curteous either. I will start working on that to help take on your challenge.

Mel said...

My dearest Ruthie,

I've been blessed with one of your acts of kindness, and it did make a difference.

I too try to do so on dayly basis, maybe holding the door for someone else, giving my hard to get seat on the bus, or just be able to help a friend that needs a hand, a smile or a shoulder to cry.

I've been told I'm crazy, weird, etc... but at the end, the same people who said things that some times hurt or though I did this or that because I wanted something in return, find themselves doing it for others. It is contagious, and I'm happy and proud to carry the 'virus'.

I believe, like you, that we could achieve great things just by starting small... let it be a snow ball that rolls and gets bigger and bigger.

It is a joy to see someone smile. And you are one of those crazy and lovely smile starters!

You did it for Rita, you made it for her mom, her family, etc. You were an inspiration for other people who started creating ways for helping others.

I feel blessed for knowing you, and be sure, that your acts of kindness DO have a HUGE positive impact, like over here, miles and miles and miles and miles away!!

Never change, you are wonderful!!

Un beso gigante,


Red said...

You're definitely not the weird one... there are others such as yourself out there. I've met a few in my job... and I've been called a dear and an angel etc. for odd things I don't think of as special, but it apparently means so much to others. Letter writing and thank you notes are becoming rarer and rarer, and what a blessing this couple appreciated this enough that they wrote a thank you immediately.

I love the story of the SMILEY1... we need more of her around! I wonder if I have the guts to do that... my car needs a paint job and that might suffice :D I do smile a lot!

Gaelyn said...

Ruthie, you have the right idea. The more of us that show compasion, help a person in need, or even smile at a stranger, make this a better world indeed. And it's contagious. Just pass it on.
Good for you to remind us.

Windyridge said...

Great post.

Every time I read snippets of Obama's speech I see more and more how great a speech it was. Uplifting and hopeful yet not too idealistic.

Mary said...

I should consider being a little more kinder and gentler...I try.

This is a good reminder that a presidential administration is only an accessory. We have the guts and power...

Wonderful post, Ruthie. You are very kind.

KGMom said...

A timely reminder.
By the way, I am working on a prayer shawl--easy pattern--68 stitches, k 2, *yo, k 2 together, k 1 then repeat from * to the end.
It is a nice lacey pattern. Finished shawl is to be 57 inches long. This is something I have never done before, but I have some left-over cream colored yarn, so I am giving it a shot.

Jayne said...

You are a very giving soul Ruthie, and your kindness shines through. It's easy for people to get caught up in their day to day lives and start not really "seeing" others and thinking of what they can do to help. It's a great reminder to us all that all we have are each other. Together, we all can make such a difference.

troutbirder said...

Very nice! We have had two homes burned down in our community in the last several weeks. The "Hearts and Hands" alliance, which formed originally here in SV to help Rushford flood victims, has had benefit fund raising meals for victims and volunteer workers and other types of donations

Shellmo said...

Ruthie - you are a sweetie! Great post! I have recently signed up for a volunteer program at the local hospital, and I've been giving anonymous gifts to this struggling family ( a grandmother taking care of her 2 grandkids and an autistic son.) She is a friend of my mother's and has too much pride to take anything from us - so I've been doing mysterious mailings and drop offs (of clothes, toys, food) to her house. But in reading your post, there is so much more I can do. We are all capable of more than we think.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Lisa, I usually try to keep politics out of my blog, but this post was something I felt compelled to write.

Hi Barefoot,
That's exactly right--a helping hand and a smile can have a very positive effect on someone's day.

You got that right Mama Pea!

Hi Deb,
I never did hear his speech in its entirety, but I did find a copy printed on the internet, so can refer back to it (and copy selected parts!)
(I've awarded particularly bad drivers the middle finger salute too--especially when I'm on the motorcycle!--fortunately it's not too often)

Thanks Lynne--you're already much kinder than I am, so I'll try to follow along in your example.

Hi Kallen,
I'm not a very patient driver either and tend to do lots of muttering when I get behind a bad driver. Fortunately, I don't have to drive very often. Thanks and good luck for taking on the challenge!

Thanks Mel, but what I've done for you doesn't even compare with the acts of kindness and generosity I know you have given to others. You are truly an inspiration for the rest of us.

Hi Red,
It's sad that common courtesy and manners seems to be going by the wayside. I'm sure our Lutheran upbringing has helped shape us into people who think random acts of kindness should be the norm rather than the exception in our daily life.

Thanks Gaelyn, I hope we can all continue to spread the contagion of kindness and compassion.

Hi Windyridge,
I know he's said many times that it might take years to fix what's wrong with the U.S., but wouldn't it be neat if people really made the effort to help out and turn this country around again?

Hi Mary,
I know you try and I know some days it's really hard isn't it? (at least for me--I have a hard time tolerating stupid!)
At least I have my "blogging support group!"

Good for you Donna! Do you have a recipient in mind or will it just go to your church when you're done? I really like the prayer shawl concept because it makes me think about others who have greater problems than my own and yet I know that I'm doing something that may bring them comfort when I'm done with it.

Thanks Jayne. It's nice to know that we have the power (as just regular people) to make positive changes in people's everyday lives.

Hi Troutbirder,
I saw the pictures of the house fires in the SV paper. Do you know if the Hearts and Hands Alliance has a website? I would like to find out more about it.

RuthieJ said...

Way to go Shelley! Keep up the good work.
I like giving anonymous gifts better because I usually end crying when I give something to someone I know--especially knowing the difficulties of the situations they're dealing with.

Helena Harper said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, particularly the part about the smiley car. It just goes to show how little acts of kindness can really brighten someone else's day. I believe if we all adopted an attitude of looking out for kindness opportunities each day, then we could transform this world into one where each of us treated

'strangers as our other half,
where nothing was too much
for the well-being of another
and selfishness was forgotten,
a thing of the past.'
(from my book 'Family and More - Enemies or Friends?')

Thank you for sharing this.

Helena Harper

Kelly said...

...loved the post. Thank you for the inspiration!

dAwN said...

Wonderful post...sorry I am 8 days late in reading it..wonderful act of kindness you did sending that quilt.
I read that you lost your job..
I think this may be a blessing in disquise for you..
You are very kindhearted..I am sure something great is around the corner!

Larry said...

Nice message Ruth.-It is so nice to come across kind and loving people-the world needs more f that.-I hope the election of our current presiden will have a positive effect on us in the long run.