Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing. I have been married to the Crankee Yankee (my husband) now for going on 13 years, and I am still learning about him. He is one of the people who really does do the right things. He does it as easily as breathing; he does it without fanfare or hope of acclaim or thanks. He’s the guy who will pick up a shovel and help clean off someone’s driveway, or will run across the street to tell a neighbor that their little boy left the front door open and their cat got out–and then he finds the cat and brings it home.
I only found out a few years ago that he once took care of a neighbor of his who had burned both his hands badly, and was bandaged up to the elbows. You can imagine what normal life would be like without the use of your hands; you can’t feed yourself, go to the bathroom or bathe yourself, you can’t drive, can’t shop, can’t work, can’t take care of the daily activities we take for granted. The Crankee Yankee took care of him, including feeding and bathroom duties. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, and I never even knew about it until we took part in a flea market one summer.
As I was rearranging some of my jewelry and his railroad memorabilia on one of our tables, a couple came up to him. The woman threw her arms around him and hugged him. She said, “I never knew that it was you who helped him (motioning to her husband) during that time. It was just before we started dating. Thank you so much!” The two men shook hands, and talked for a while. When I asked what that was all about, the Crankee Yankee told me about it such a matter-of-fact way, you’d think he had just helped the guy paint his fence.
I have a dear artist friend who makes incredibly beautiful jewelry. Her work is fabulous, artistic, extremely well-made and each piece is unforgettable. She always keeps some of her earrings with her wherever she goes, and gives them to anyone who has touched her heart in some way. She also remembers those who serve us all through the year; the librarian, the people at the post office, the clerk in the grocery store who always helps her; she gifts them with a pair of earrings as a thank-you for all they do.
Sure, it’s just a pair of earrings, but think about it–what does it mean when you receive a lovely gift out of the blue for apparently no reason? An unexpected kindness warms the soul, and opens the heart to the possibility of wonder. It is she who inspired me to carry around some of my own handmade earrings just in case. Giving a pair of them to the toll attendant during Christmas week, the waitress who smiles even when she is rushed off her feet, the nurses who have lovingly and kindly cared for your loved one in the hospital, the staff at the veterinarian’s office when your pet needs help; it is so much more than just a pair of earrings. It’s a token of appreciation that means much–as we all know, thanks can be pretty thin on the ground sometimes.
Every so often you hear on the news that someone has gone out of their way to help someone and it warms my heart. There are so many who quietly hand a homeless person a bag of food or a blanket, or help out at a shelter, or who pay someone’s layaway bill “just because.” These gestures lift our hearts and give us hope that yes, there is still good in the world and that there are people who still do the right thing.
There is such grace and kindness and sheer love all around us, even amidst these times of turmoil, anger and hatred. I believe that an act of kindness has a universal effect that touches us all, whether we are aware of it or not. When someone chooses to walk away from anger or hurt, and instead walk with gratitude and forgiveness, we all win. We cannot let the negativity get us down; there are too many angels on this earth who are busily engaged in doing the right thing wherever and however they can.
Let’s allow ourselves to look for and feel that grace and kindness; to ‘pay it forward,’ to remember to say ‘thank you,’ to look someone in the eyes and smile. It get easier with practice, and practice in this case makes it easier to see the good and to do the right thing when we can.