I have come to realize that I cannot solve most problems. However, I do believe that every now and then the stars align just right and I am given the opportunity to do something to make someone’s day just a bit better.
Your child is struggling in school. Your loved one is sick. A pipe burst while you were away. Maybe I can offer a few homework suggestions that worked for my kid, or the name of a specialist in Baltimore, or throw a plumber’s number your way, but really, you’re on your own.
I like to focus on the smaller things. My life is not an 800-page epic novel, but more like the dog-eared short story you read in Freshman English 101. The one that touched your heart ever so briefly, but for some reason, you have made a point of reading the author’s works throughout the years.
Travel in the Northeast corridor is difficult most of the time, but during Thanksgiving it can be especially unpredictable. Several years ago, despite our early departure, traffic was horrendous. It was taking nearly twice as long as usual. We had not made it north of Baltimore before the children were cranky and tired, and my husband and I were frustrated and angry.
As we pulled up to a toll, I remembered caravanning with my father, many years ago, to a family beach vacation. I would pull up to each tollbooth along the way to learn that my dad had already paid for me. I suggested that we pay the toll for the car behind us. Everyone was confused. Why would we do such a thing? We don’t know them. They don’t know us. We will never see them again. We can barely see them now.
We paid the toll. Maybe it was $.50 or $1.25. As we pulled away from the tollbooth we all laughed. The children turned around to see the reaction from the couple behind us who gave us a thankful wave. I wondered what they were thinking. I imagined them paying the toll for the car behind them. I saw how we had changed in that moment. I imagined how the world could change with one simple act of random kindness.
Usually, I won’t be able to drive you to the airport or help you with your other problems. But once in a while, when your flight isn’t too early in the morning and I don’t need to drive my kids anywhere—on that day, I will gladly volunteer. I won’t do it out of a sense of obligation or because I hope you will do the same for me next week.
I will drive you to the airport because I believe that every act of random kindness is a deposit in the cosmic bank of goodness and every deposit, no matter how small, makes the universe exponentially richer—until there is enough for everyone. This I believe.