This I Believe

Kathleen - Township of Washington, New Jersey
Entered on May 17, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

RAK ATTACKS

I believe in RAK Attacks. I first heard the expression the summer I turned nineteen and delivered medications to the ill and infirm for the local drugstore. I drove around in a hot, little Chevette, sweating and listening to sad love songs. My boyfriend had recently broken up with me, and it felt like the end of the world. On one of my stops, I swung open the car door and saw something crumpled and green at my feet. The wrinkled face of Andrew Jackson stared back at me – a twenty-dollar bill. I took this as a sign that things were about to change for the better.

I drove around that day and considered how I’d spend the money. A book? Some new music? Maybe even a movie?

On my way back into the store, two little girls in pigtails rushed ahead to hold the door open for me.

“RAK Attack,” they announced in unison, their faces beaming.

I edged past and perplexed, I looked at their mother.

“We’re racking up Random Acts of Kindness,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Summer . . . Way too much time on our hands.”

Seeing the delight on the faces of those girls, I decided to invest that twenty dollars and play a version of their game. That afternoon, I bought a slice of pizza for a stranger; treated an over-heated looking lady to a cold soda; kicked in the difference for a customer, a little boy, who wanted to buy his mother a bottle of perfume for her birthday; and paid five dollars for a glass of lemonade that kids were selling from a curbside stand. With each and every RAK Attack, I put a smile on someone’s face – and in the process, also my own.

But it was the last few dollars I handed the toll collector at the bridge on my way to college that night that sealed the deal for me.

“Here’s my fare, and I’d like to pay for the car behind me,” I said.

The clerk looked at me as if I had two heads, then took the money.

I drove off slowly, keeping my eyes on the rearview mirror. When I saw the driver of the car behind me pay the collector, I was appalled, thinking the fare was pocketed. But as I idled at the first traffic light, I was surprised when the car rolled alongside me. The driver opened her window to say thank you.

“What you did inspired me to pay for the person behind me,” she explained.

It’s been years since my first RAK Attack, and while money rarely lands at my feet, I still believe in random acts of kindness. I believe in recognizing the goodness that comes my way – monetary and otherwise – and passing it on, even in small, simple measures. By doing so I restore my faith in human nature and prove that people appreciate unexpected gestures of kindness that make their lives a little easier and remind them that they are not alone.