Earlier this afternoon I stopped at an area supermarket to pick up an essential food in my daily menu: bananas. This gave me an excuse for coffee, and to pick up one other needed item. Just an ordinary day, Dec. 28, 2021.
A gentle snow had begun while I was in the store – the big fat flakes gently falling, perfect for artists depiction of “over the river and through the woods”.
My car was covered by perhaps an inch of snow, enough to sweep, but no rigor required. The man the next car over was sweeping his own car, and as I reached mine, he did my car as well.
“Thanks and Happy New Year”, I said. I had no idea who he was: just one more stranger in my town, as I also was in his.
The action took all of a minute. Off he went, as did I. Just another day in our town. A memorable small act of kindness, just because….
This singular act outside the grocery store got me to thinking back over the last days, weeks, months, years. As I write, I am visualizing a list of small, unnecessary, memorable actions by others that have made my life, and the lives of others, better. One small – maybe even tiny – deed at a time. Mostly they are people I’ve never met, will never even see again. Their only name is their action.
I’d invite you to think about such actions by ordinary people in your own life that made your life better in 2021. I guarantee you, it won’t take long, and you’ll be surprised what arrives on your own list of good deeds given to you, not the opposite. If the spirit moves, and you know who they are, let them know how they contributed to your life, probably without their knowing.
As I write I think back to an assignment I was given by my friend Judy Maghakian in the early summer of 2019.
The assignment came before we left on a two week trip via AMTRAK to Seattle, ending in Davis CA. She was hosting a summer workshop at Macalester College, and she asked me to talk on the topic Servant Leadership to young people mostly from other countries. Our trip is highlighted in yellow below.
I didn’t know what “Servant Leadership” was, except I thought it must be about actions by ordinary people in living their ordinary lives. (There are books on the topic, if you’re interested. Just type “servant leadership” in your browser. I really haven’t read any of them before or since…. I have experienced this kind of leadership often.)
My focus wasn’t on prominent people, rather on people whose daily service is truly at the micro level – person to person.
So during the trip I very simply started to list things that I had experienced by ordinary citizens in the places we visited: a kind porter on the train; some passengers who were birdwatchers, enroute to an event; two native Americans engaged in good works back home in Oregon…on and on.
Not long before the trip I had touched base with my friend, Frank Kroncke, who has a compelling story going back to the peace movement of the Vietnam era. I decided to ask him if he’d be willing to be co-presentor. He agreed, as did Judy.
Together, I think we had an enriching hour of engagement – certainly nothing fancy, but fancy was not expected. Servant Leaders by my definition are not fancy people, by and large. Here is what I wrote at the time; (Servant Leadership is the second half of the commentary.)
Do your part to make 2022 a Happy New Year.
COMMENTS (more at end of post)
from Fred: Good suggestion for the new year! Overall, I have so much to be grateful for, that small acts of kindness and compassion might well be overlooked.
Have you noticed how often people go out of their way hold doors for others? The practice has grown more over the years. Of course it is possible that I started doing only after maturing. That was about four years ago so maybe I’ve got it all wrong.
Happy New Year, Richard!
from David: Thanks Dick, we will continue another year of peace work. Thanks for your support.
from Barry: Same to you Dick. I hope there will be some good news for this messed up country of ours.
from Rosa Maria: Lovely post, Dick. May we all do good deeds to others and appreciate the ones that other do for us.
from Judy: Dear Dick, you are a remarkable communicator and person. Thank you, thank you. God’s blessings to you in the New Year.
from Martha: Dick, Thanks for sharing these uplifting reminders of the good in this world. That and the wonderful winter photo was just right for this dark, quiet, winter evening! New Year’s Greetings to you and Cathy,
from Darleen: When I was teaching at the Business College, I held a week titled Random Acts of Kindness. It was quite successful. Now I am grateful for those who find and bring a motorized cart for me. There are many who help unload my cart by putting the groceries in the trunk of my car. On occasion there have been teen-agers who have been VERY helpful with doors, reaching items that are on a top shelf, and various other needs. Some have even helped bag the items. It is interesting to learn who helps and who walks on by.