This I Believe

Jen - APO, New York
Entered on April 24, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: golden rule

I believe in random acts of kindness. Maybe it’s from watching too many movies or reading too much Chicken Soup for the Soul. Then again, it might just be that I took the Golden rule to heart – which would explain why I sometimes give money to people. Of course I’m still waiting for most of them to do to me what I have done to them.

The very first time I helped someone was on a gray afternoon in Belgium when I was twelve years old. I was standing in line at the bowling alley, waiting impatiently to order my food. The girl in front of me kept repeating herself, volume rising each time and slowing her speech, thinking that this would magically make the Belgian cashier understand her. As the grumblings behind me grew louder, the cashier looked more and more stressed, hoping for a miracle. I reminded myself of all that my parents had taught me – to mind my own business, not eavesdrop and certainly not insert myself into someone else’s conversation. As the coca-cola clock ticked away, the grumblings turned into shouts, the cashier’s eyes began to shine with unshed tears and the girl’s face grew redder in frustration. I chanted over and over, “don’t do it, don’t do it”, but finally the dam burst open and I stepped in front of the girl and looked the cashier in the eye and said, in perfect French, “she doesn’t want any ketchup on her hamburger”. A look of relief came over the cashier’s face as she shouted the order to the cook. The girl paid and then went to find a table and I ordered my food.

No, I didn’t save a life. The cashier thanked me, but that was it. No free coke, no award. But to this day I remember the feeling that came over me. I felt needed and appreciated, but, more than that, I felt proud of myself. Random acts of kindness show others the goodness in you but they also prove to each of us that there is something decent in us. So ultimately, I suppose it’s a selfish, ego-stroking act, but no one can deny the necessity of these acts. I learned that day that sometimes the smallest things can ruin your day – but then, sometimes the smallest gesture, which requires only the smallest amount of effort, can make it the best day of your life.