Random Acts of Kindness—strangers helping strangers. We’ve all seen them, maybe even drawn a bit of inspiration from them now and then. Seeing someone do something nice for someone else often motivates us to be a little better, a little more caring in our daily affairs.
There’s a thin line between what we would call a community and a collection of people, and that line is drawn by random acts of kindness. In places where rudeness rules the atmosphere, the lack of a community feeling is felt in every bleat of a horn, every door neglected to be held open, every scowl of a passerby. But a community, a community helps each other out. A community comes out in the wake of a school shooting, like Chardon did, or raises money for someone with leukemia, like the Solon Band did a few years ago. Communities are knit with the kindness of its members, and the lack of such kindness often results in division, discrimination, separation.
A couple of weeks ago, someone did something really nice for me that I’d like to tell you about. If it leaves you with just a fraction of what I felt afterwards, then I’ll be satisfied.
It was a cold winter day, the kind that bites at your fingers and face. I was leaving school when I realized, upon approaching my car, that I had left my key in the ignition. That meant that the radio, which was left on all day, had talked and sang my battery into a deep hibernation. Now, I was leaving rather late, so there were barely any cars or people around me. That meant that help was going to be hard to find.
I immediately ran back to the school and into the front. I asked the security guard if she had any jumper cables. Her answer was a sympathetic but definite “no.” I was distraught. My parents weren’t going to be home for another couple hours, nobody was around that I could call...and then all of a sudden I heard,
“Hey...do you need cables?”
It was a custodian, passing by.
“Yes! Do you have any?” I asked.
“Of course. Is your car in the senior commons?” he replied.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Okay. I’ll drive around and meet you in about five minutes. Wait in your car.” He turned and left.
This guy was going to be my savior. I went back out to my car and waited. Sure enough, he came. He immediately got down to work, opening the front of my car and uncoiling his jumper cables. He did his thing, he knew his stuff, and all the while I’m standing there feeling bad about making him leave his duties.
After about five minutes, everything was ready. He told me to hop in the driver’s seat and try and start the car. Here we went. I turned the key and...nope. Just more revving as the engine huffed and puffed. The custodian’s face turned to one of consternation, but not one of defeat. He went back to work, feeding my car energy from his, adjusting the cables, reassuring me that he could fix it.
We must have spent something like 25 minutes out there. We had more than three failed attempts, but each time, this guy never gave up. Finally, it worked. His car had sufficiently transferred enough of its battery to mine. On the fourth attempt, my car shook and awakened.
I thanked him profusely for his kindness. He said no problem. I asked him his name. Jamie. I thanked him again. And then he gave me some some words of wisdom.
“That’s what we do, you know. We help each other out. That’s why I have these cables. They help people.”
With that, he walked away.
We see goodness in the unlikeliest of places. Jamie didn’t have to help me. He didn’t have to feed my car with the energy he had bought with his hard-earned money. He could have given up after it was clear my car was going to need more than one attempt to revive it.
One random act of kindness leads to another. How can I ever deny someone needing help with his or her car? How can I ever claim to be “too busy” to put down whatever I’m doing and aid another human being? Jamie, and his unexpected kindness, helped me realize this. Want proof?
Just look at the jumper cables now sitting on the floor of my car.