The grocery store was crowded when I ran in for a few items yesterday, but I managed to find one fairly short checkout line. In front of me, an older man sat in a motorized cart with a small pile of canned goods in its basket. It looked to me like it would be an uncomfortable reach for him to lift his items onto the counter, so I walked to the side of his cart and stooped enough to be at face level with him.
“May I put your items on the belt for you? Would that be a help?”
His lined face brightened into a smile. “Oh, thank you! Yes, that would be wonderful. You’re an angel.”
As I transferred his items to the counter, he told me he had just been released from the hospital. I saw that one arm had gauze taped to it and he still wore a hospital ID bracelet on his wrist. “They said my heart was good. They couldn’t tell me why I’m so tired,” he said. When he got home, he intended to take a nap.
He told me that he’d lost his wife a year ago to cancer. They had been together 43 years. I told him I had lost a son in an auto accident, and I knew what grief was like. “A man said something helpful to me while I was grieving,” I told him. “He said that the pain never really goes away, but it finds a special place in your heart to dwell.” He smiled and nodded.
He put out his hand, told me his name and asked mine. Then, when I put my hand in his, he covered it with his other hand and said a quiet prayer of blessing for me, asking that I might be blessed with health and well-being and prosper in all my ways.
The glow of that encounter still flows through my heart and serves as a poignant reminder of the power of a moment of kindness.
As I write this, Hurricane Harvey is tearing up homes and towns and lives in Texas. From the looks of things, the damage will be catastrophic and widespread. And like most of you reading this, I wish I could offer more than a donation to relief funds. I’m so tired of witnessing all the suffering in the world.
But my encounter at the grocery store reminded me that even small kindnesses can touch lives in meaningful ways. And I think nothing is more needed right now than offerings of kindness, every day, at every opportunity. What if we all looked for those opportunities? What if we focused on that, instead of bristling with a willingness to take offense?
Who knows what a touch, a smile can do? Hold a door. Say hello. Help carry a burden. Take a neighbor a cookie or flower. Say the magic words: Please, and Thank You. Tell the people that you care about that you love them.
We might not change the world. But we can at least tip it a little more toward the light, hey? I say we all put on our kindness hats and get out there and give it all we’ve got.