In Seinfeld’s infamous “Non-Fat Yogurt” episode, Elaine had an interesting proposal:
“You know what I would do if I was running for mayor? One of my campaign themes would be that everybody should wear name tags all the time to make the city friendlier… everybody would know everybody. It would be like a small town.”
Of course, it was that same proposal that ended up costing a mayoral candidate the election, but nonetheless, the underlying sentiment is kind of nice. And while most of the time, strangers remain, well, strangers, it’s often the people you know the least who can surprise you the most.
Random Act of Kindness #1: I recently started parking a little further away from my office, to free up some space in our parking lot. The building is in a neighborhood in Burbank so there’s ample parking, but I’m still a little wary about leaving my car on the street. A few days ago, as I walked away from my car, the horn didn’t sound when I locked it. I immediately thought, “Oh great, something else I’ll have to fix,” and hurried to walk the long block from my car to the office.
A few moments later, I heard a car driving up the street and realized that it was slowing down. The next thing I heard was a young man’s voice saying, “Excuse me, ma’am, but you left the trunk of your car open. I can go back and shut it for you, but I just didn’t know if you’d want me to touch it.” Aha! That’s why my ‘your car is locked’ noise didn’t happen. It wasn’t locked. As I walked back towards my car, I watched the young man drive back down the street towards where my car parked and pull into a driveway. It hit me that that man got out of his house and drove to come find me to tell me my trunk was open. I, on the other hand, can barely walk to the kitchen to get water when I’m thirsty. He unequivocally wins this round.
Random Act of Kindness #2: The second summer I lived in New York, I was excited to hear, upon arrival, that the fountain in Washington Square Park had been reopened. So that night I walked, book in hand, to the fountain and settled in. A little while later, a strange man approached me, as strange men in Washington Square Park are wont to do. He attempted to regale me with stories about the ’60s, and about war and then some more about the ’60s and then some more about war.
Long story short, I never know how to get out of such situations. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl about my age, waving at me and mouthing, “Are you okay?” I kind of shook my head no and before I knew it, she rushed up to the place where the man and I were sitting. She turned my way and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen you in such a long time!” And, realizing what she was doing, I played along. “Hi! Yes! It’s so good to see you!” She asked if we could go somewhere and catch up and we walked off together. Again, one point for the strangers!
The thing that gets me is that neither of these two individuals needed to do what they did. In fact, I’m willing to admit that I might not act the same way in those situations. But even though the actions of those two individuals were relatively small, I won’t soon forget either of them. And I hope that at some point, I can be that person for someone else. I’m guessing that I’ll have to first overcome my fear of talking to people I don’t know on the phone. But hey, I’m working on it.