Does the phrase “random acts of kindness” register with you? Have you ever performed one? How did it feel? Would you repeat it? How come?
When Anne Herbert wrote the phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat in Sausalito in 1982, I doubt she imagined how far reaching her words would be. Also according to Wikipedia, she published a book in 1993 titled, “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty” which details true stories of acts of kindness. The wording of the original phrase has been changed through the years but the concept remains the same. Performing acts of spontaneous kindness is now viewed as required behavior as you interact with others in the year 2019.
But, what are these “random acts of kindness”? You can Google the phrase and there are many lists of actions for you to choose from lest you find yourself coming up short with original ideas of what one might be. I sure hope everyone knows what these are and sets about their day looking for a chance to take the initiative in helping another. I find that performing one both quickens and lightens my step as I go forth into our world.
Here’s my favorite one to do. Well, there’re really two favorites and they are tied heads up for first place. Here you go: 1) I like to help little old ladies across the street. 2) I like to help the physically or mentally handicapped. About those little old ladies…I pick out the most needy woman I can find to help. Many of the ones I help are in clothing that’s almost rags. Plus, some are partially blind from cataracts and may have seen a few days without fresh water to bathe in. They will be the most shunned as a group waits to cross a busy street. Only once or twice was I refused when I offered my arm to a woman. One woman told me she couldn’t afford to pay me to help her across. That was a heart stabber.
Disabled folks are the other group I really enjoy lending a hand to. When I do this, my first thought is always how can I help them while insuring their dignity is upheld. I want to show them I have respect for them as individuals. The last time I helped like this was at the bus stop on Bolivar directly east of San Francisco Plazoletta. There must be 6 different lines stopping here. It’s one of the busiest stops in town and the buses are mobbed when they come coasting up.
As I waited for my line to arrive, a taxista pulled up and an older indigenous woman jumped out. She wore a tall-crowned, narrow brimmed white straw hat with a blue ribbon, Cañari style. The woman threw open a back door, where two men in their early forties were sitting. She grabbed one of them by the arm and wrenched him out and into the street while horns were blaring. She marshaled him to the curb close to where I was and lined him out telling him to not move or speak to anyone. Before she could finish speaking, I was standing there and taking the man’s hand in my own. I don’t know exactly why, I’ll just say I was moved to serve that family. She felt my intent instantly and the look of gratitude on her face was beyond placing a value on. She patted my hand and ran for the other fellow because the taxista was now blowing his horn too. She got the second man to the curb and settled before I turned my new charge over to her. She hugged my neck and kissed my cheek as some thirty-odd folks looked on, never moving a muscle or changing their distant expressions.
But, before any of this happened here in Ecuador; before I helped my first little old lady or disabled person, something else big happened. In April of 2016, a deadly earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador and killed many people. Edie and I had been in Ecuador for two months. This was before I had a truck and I had no way to get to the coast to render aid to folks that were hurt and displaced. I really wanted to go as I had the skillsets to take on the situation. Lacking transportation to the earthquake zone, I helped out by loading fresh water onto coastal-bound trucks at Parque Calderon. It was during that time I saw it happen. You know I had a camera with me, making some documentary frames, while I was working to help get aid to the displaced.
There were many animals that lost their homes to the earthquake which was over seven in strength on the Richter scale. The homeless cats and dogs, many sans masters, were left to fend for themselves. In conversations I had with younger Ecuadorian Army Regulars, they told me that some soldiers were adopting these animals and bringing them back to Cuenca to give them a new home. One day, as I was helping some men load supplies into coast bound trucks, I saw a soldier trying to offer water in a plastic cup to his new dog. I was deeply touched by this; it pierced me quickly and lodged itself deeply in my chest. It must have had barbs on it too because it doesn’t seem like it can be pulled out.
I’m thankful to that soldier because his random act of kindness in retrieving that dog and providing for it while it was scared and alone changed me. It made me more aware on some different levels than I had previously been. I don’t know the creed of the Ecuadorian Army but some of it is probably similar to that of a peace officer, “To Serve and Protect.” This fellow carried it even further by also aiding animals in need. The Ecuadorian people are great, they have a special way of giving. Hang around, you’ll see it soon enough. Make your observations. And then, you’ll be in an even better position to lighten your step too…just like I was.