Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Small Act of Kindness - Week Three

A couple days ago, Savannah and I were sitting in the waiting room of her orthopedist. It’s a large, wide-open room and at the time, we were the only ones occupying it. After a few minutes of waiting, an elderly woman in a wheel chair rolled through the doors. She came to stop right next to us. I mean, she was as close as she could possibly get without actually crashing into us. I gave Savannah a sidelong glance meant to convey the following thoughts: She’s got the whole, entire, empty room and she chooses to sit on top of us? Personal space, lady!

Savannah shot me a raised-eyebrow, dubious look back. I carefully avoided eye contact with the woman because obviously, only crazy people get so close for no particular reason. The fact that I wasn’t being very neighborly only played at the fringes of my mind as I studiously ignored the woman. Although, honestly, it wasn’t really a conscious decision to avoid the woman; it just sort of came naturally. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people, but I guess it’s simply easier to stay in my own world with blinders on to everything else.

Then she dropped the magazines that had been perched on her lap. Without thinking, I reached down, scooped up the scattered pages and handed them back to her. She thanked me and said, “You’re so kind.” I didn’t feel very kind, however. I felt ashamed that my first instinct was to avoid all contact. I decided to remedy that. I smiled and we started talking. I learned that she’d been a chemistry major back in the day and she had to walk upstairs to do her labs and a girl in her class had had polio and couldn’t walk so every day, four guys would carry her upstairs so she could participate in the labs, and bathroom doors are too heavy, and the train tracks from here to Louisiana were damaged in Hurricane Katrina and hadn’t been repaired yet, and if she was running the world, things would be different. The conversation was mostly one-sided, but I think she was just happy to have someone to listen to her chatter.

This encounter gave me the idea for this week’s small act of kindness. Talk to a stranger. At least once this week, don’t take the easy way out. Make an effort to connect with another human. You never know, perhaps they live alone and are lonely for conversation. Maybe they’re depressed and wondering what’s the point. Maybe they’re an angel walking among us. Sure, sometimes it can be uncomfortable stepping out of our zone like that, but you never know the effect it might have on another human being. So give it a try.

And as always, please share your ideas and experiences here. What you have to say could inspire another individual and give them an idea. And thank you to all who have taken time to comment on the past couple weeks’ posts.

20 comments:

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh, this is lovely Dawn. Last week I had a similar encounter in the dentist's waiting room and I wasn't so open and friendly with a mom there. I kind of just ignored her episode with her son because I really didn't know what else to do and I wish I would have just at least said something encouraging or understanding to her. Instead I just kept head down like I didn't see it right in front of me.

Steph

Notsopc said...

My husband says I talk too much.. I love just striking up a conversation..

cheshirecat28 said...

It was very interesting to come home and read this. As I was coming home form work today, after picking my kids up from after school care, I stopped to get some movies from redbox. While I was picking out the movies a gentleman came up to me and asked for directions. I could of ignored him instead I gave him directions and started talking to him. It turned out he knew a bunch of people I did. I ended up giving him a ride to where he needed to go. Its really cold here and snowing and he was going to have to walk almost 12 blocks.

Catmeat said...

Hi Dawn, One small thing I find fun to do is cut out all the coupons in the Sunday paper. I then put them near the item in the store. No one really knows I did it but it makes me feel good helping someone else out in these hard times. Kristine in Blizzard Michigan :)

The Gibson's said...

My mom does that anyways talks to anyone that is near. I am not sure how she is so comfortable about it, and at times I know people want to escape her wrath but don't want to be rude. I like talking too, but not to the point where I take up an hour of some strangers life. I did visit my grandmother on Monday with my kids, we have a sort of falling out and trying to repair it. It's hard to see her going down hill and fast, I wish I could get back those six months, but I can't. So my advice if the stranger thing is too hard, what about a friend or family member to reconnect with if there are hard feelings. It's tough but we only have one life and we should never have regret!!!

Mark said...

Good Morning Dawn: I am composing this at 3:49 AM. (actually, its also the same time where you are too.except here..it is MINUS TWO DEGREES)That's referred to as BRISK.
I read your lovely and most delightful posting earlier..was very moved by it all..and headed out to the ALL-NIGHT MARKET to buy a few of the products I had seen featured on your site(just a VOTE of support)
There, I spotted an eldery lady struggling to reach one specially priced singular can of cat food..on a bottom shelf..Always a "gentleman", I simply reached down,grabbed it..and was just about to place it into her gnarled arthritic hands...when she suddenlty arose(with much vigour) and bopped me viciously. Who knew she had once been a pitcher for the New York Yankees?
My doctor advises that the FRISKIES IMPRINT will fade over time...and suggested that I ask her to similarly "apply" a match to the other side of my face..just for symmetry.

So,Baby Sister: Ya got any more sweet ideas to impart to your readership?

Susan said...

Hey Dawn, yesterday I was at the lab after my doctor's appt. and the only other person in the waiting room was a young girl of 20. She was on the phone with her mom and said, "No, Nonnie's getting her chest xrayed. If I don't get back in time, please take the cookies to church." When she hung up I told her what a sweet granddaughter she was for taking her grandmother to the doctor. She thanked me and said it made her day. How little it takes sometimes...

However, I did notice her fashion fail with blue jeans and black patent mary janes. Just kidding.

Heather E said...

I talk to a stranger once/week. You never know who's life you're going to make better by just saying "Hello".

Mom Taxi Julie said...

There are so many lonely people out there! I love this! I tend to be on the more chatty side and people will be looking at me like I have two heads haha.

Becs said...

Your post reminds me about that story about the boy in middle school (or high school) who was alone and clearing out his locker and another student saw him struggling and help. He turns out to be valedictorian or something and had actually planned on committing suicide that day before this other student befriended him. You never know the impact a conversation with you or smile may have on someone else :) (Or a blog post-lol)

Rose said...

Hi Dawn, love your blog and I should comment more often. We are a scouting family and one of the Boy Scout Motto's is "Do a Good Turn Daily". Since my husband was the scout master, and I was the assistant scout master we would talk daily to our son about what was our/your good turn today. I still find myself daily looking for my "good turn". I was in the post office two days ago at the self serve machine. There were two elderly women in front of me. The first woman was really struggling with the machine, she had never used it before. At first I was annoyed and thought OMG I'm going to be here a half hour. So I then thought, oh no I'm not, I'll just offer my assistance. So I talked both women through the machine and I can't tell you how many times the first lady kept thanking me and telling me how kind I was. I then told her that I needed my "good turn" for the day so I thanked her and hoped that she would be able to use the machine next time with more confidence, just follow the text. My son became an Eagle Scout several years back and I still ask him from time to time when was the last time he did a good turn. I know he does them and I thank God everyday for the valuable lessons we learned in the Boy Scouts of America!

Shonda W. said...

Im definately going to try this this week. I always talk myself out of talking to people that I don't know. I do not know what my problem is. Do I think I might sound dumb? Do I think they will ignore me? I think this lady lived during a time that we knew our neighbors, we sat down next to people that we didn't know just to have social interaction. Where did it all go wrong? I know two of my neighbors well actually three. Three!! On a busy road in the city limits! Yep I'm going to try some self improvement and step out of my comfort zone of me and be friendly.
Great idea!
Shonda W.

Stacy said...

This morning I was on my way to an appointment when I came around a curve and a 2 car collision had just occurred. I called 911 and reported the accident instead of driving on past like all of the other drivers were doing. I then puled my van safely out of the way. All of the people in the accident appeared to be ok. The driver and passenger of the SUV had very quickly jumped out an pulled out 2 sweet little guys. It was pretty chilly this morning (48 for FL is chilly) so I offered to let the boys sit in my van with the heat running until someone arrived to help them. The 2 moms were very grateful. And even though it made me late for my appointment I was glad to be able to help.

It would have been very easy to just drive on by but it really blessed me to be able to help.

Angel Read said...

That is a good story! I generally am nervous to talk to strangers because of my social anxiety issues and I will usually go out of my way to avoid it as well... but the times when I have gotten drawn into conversations have almost always been rewarding! (ALMOST. There WAS the guy who tried to kiss me after our twenty minute conversation while sitting together on a crowded city bus!)

Melinda said...

talking to a stranger is so hard for me, at least it used to be. I've gotten better and have at least started making more eye contact and smiling with a nod.

kermi said...

I just *love* to make someone else laugh unexpectedly. Where ever we are... no matter how *inappropriate* it may seem. If they are laughing when we leave - I win! ;)
*Disclaimer - I will act the fool, point out the bleeding obvious, give them another point of view to ponder or any other suck reason to crack it. Stupidmarket, Doctors, hospital, walking down the street, derby training. You name it, I've most likely entertained there! :P
www.musingnmayhem.com

cakeburnette said...

Hah. My husband would say that it would be a great kindness for me to STOP talking to strangers, probably both to them AND him! Seriously, I talk to strangers all the time. I hope I am not irritating them and am indeed brightening their day. I'm going to tell my husband that I am, anyway! :D

http://dianereiter.com said...

Great post! I actually DO try to talk to strangers (maybe too often). Unfortunately, sometimes when I see someone that looks a bit down and out, it just turns out they have ZERO personality. Ha. But other times, it's as you said...they seem grateful just to hae someone take an interest and the time to talk

Sherry said...

I try to say hi or smile any time I make eye contact. We live in a smaller town. When I take my kids and say hi to someone in Walmart they asked who that is. Then I say, that is the lady that works the check out. I am always chatting with them. :) My mom is the same way. I guess I get it from her.

Unknown said...

as a bartender, i get paid to talk to strangers. sometimes, the money is hardly enough. but with two kids under 3 waiting for me at home, i am generally willing to put a smile on my face anyway--hey, after 15 years of this crap, that's not always easy to do! other times, however, a pleasant surprise awaits in the conversations to be had with a total stranger. you know, what mr. gump said...about 'dem chocolates?

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