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?