Life

Why Are We So Suspicious of Random Acts of Kindness?

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How do you react when people, unasked, come to you completely out of the blue and performs random acts of kindness on your behalf? Your first reaction — even if it only lasts for a brief glimmer — says a lot about who we are.

The sky just opened up.

The dark gray clouds which had been looming overhead in a threatening manner for at least a half hour suddenly sprang to life and conditions instantly went from not even a drizzle to a solid downpour.

In South Carolina, when you see drivers actually slowing down and turning on their hazard lights, that’s a great indication that this isn’t any ordinary rain. I was on my way to the grocery store, a trip on which I conveniently decided to embark moments before the torrent commenced.

I made it to the grocery store and sat in the car watching for a moment, making that classic assumption, “Well it can’t keep going this hard for much longer.”

Don’t we all say things like that?

After about three minutes or so, the downpour slowed to a heavy rain. Then moderate. Then light enough to just deal with, though certainly heavier than a drizzle. I got out of the car, deploying my trusty, oversized umbrella and began walking toward the front door.

That’s when I saw a woman who was probably in her late fifties or so, pushing a shopping cart toward me. She had parked three cars closer to the door than I had, but she had no umbrella and about six bags in her cart. I passed her just as she reached the back of her SUV. So I stopped and walked back to her.

“I can at least help you stay dry,” I said as I held the umbrella over her.

The look on her face was very interesting.

It was a mix of “Oh, thank you so much,” “Are you kidding?” “What do you want?” and “Are you going to try to hurt me?”

After a brief pause, she actually said, “well thank you, that’s very nice.” She loaded the bags into her trunk and then I took the cart back inside for her.

I don’t know what made me stop to do it; I don’t recall ever doing anything like that before, to be honest. But I just felt a little unexplainable nudge to help so I did.

I don’t fault her for her reaction.

It’s not that we watch too much television or see too many movies. Or even that we read too many “true crime” novels.

These days, it seems, there is danger at every turn. We can be trusting, but it’s not entirely unhealthy to be cautious, especially when a stranger approaches so abruptly and catches you off guard — even with a nice gesture.

Random acts of kindness, unfortunately, aren’t a signal that someone has your best interests at heart.

It’s just a shame that we as a society have reached this point, understandable as it may be.

You Tell Me…

What was the initial reaction you received the last time you performed a random act of kindness on a total stranger? Did you see that momentary look of fear/confusion/concern?

2 Comments

  1. As a man that is a father(23 yrs.),a husband(35 yrs.) & a son(56 yrs). I have had lots of opportunities to give & receive Random Acts of kindness The most rewarding are the ones when ur identity goes undetected. To see their reaction & the unbelievable looks..priceless! The most disappointing reaction? Running to console a 3 yo  child who had fallen,skinning both knees & bump under HER chin. The mother, who was no where insight at the time,snatched the child with a fury as i wiped the blood & tears with my bandanna. Screaming insults,vulgarities assuming that being a man i was a predator, child molesting pervert!  The hurtful looks of passerby’s cut deep in my soul. As my wife stood near. She offered the truth of the situation, but to no avail.  I was tried,convicted,sentenced in a matter of seconds. The next time a similar event occurs, Will i hesitate to react? or not react at all? No, I’ll sprint as fast as i can! offering comfort,compassion. When i catch a glimpse of that old guy in the mirror, i can look him in the eye with no shame or guilt, only the pride that comes with always doing what i think & feel is the right thing to do. Thanks for a great article Patrick.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.