Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

When Henry Scull was a little boy, his mother was the beneficiary of a random act of kindness. She was trying to get her kids home and found herself needing to catch a ferry that she couldn’t possibly reach in time on foot. A stranger approached and explained that he had overheard her dilemma and wanted to help. He arranged and paid for transportation for Henry’s mother and her kids to get to the ferry on time. When she told him that she had no way to repay him, he told her simply, “Do the same thing for someone else some day. That will be repayment enough.” I don’t know if she ever did do that, but I know that young Henry was listening.

About four or five decades later, Henry got on to a train bound for New York City and took a seat next to a 24-year-old man on his way to DC. Mistaking the young man for an athlete, he struck up a conversation by asking him, “What’s your sport.” The young man was flattered but replied that he didn’t play a sport. He was in the Air Force and he was on his way back to Andrews AFB just outside Washington, DC. He was not very street-savvy when it came to The City, and wasn’t sure how he was supposed to catch a southbound train out of New York. Henry said that he would have to catch an Amtrak train at Penn Station. The young man said that he didn’t know how to get to Penn Station, whereupon Henry said, “I’ll get you there. I’m going that way.” He then told the young man about what happened when he was a little boy and about the stranger who helped them. Once off the train, Henry got a taxi for them and paid for the trip to Penn Station. Once inside, he pointed the young man in the right direction. The young man told him, “I really appreciate this, sir. I don’t know how I would have gotten here without you. I don’t know how to thank you.” And Henry said, “Do the same thing for someone else some day. That will be repayment enough.” Well, Mr. Henry Scull, I took the advice you gave me that day and I have tried to practice random acts of kindness for others.

I can’t claim to have done it to the same scale that you did for me, but I have tried to help strangers in little ways. Tourists from another country once asked me to help them understand our currency system so they could put money in the meters. Sure, Xerox would have preferred that they were paying me to do work for them, but I felt the twenty minutes or so I spent with the strangers was a better use of my time. I’ve also done the odd helping out now and then when someone in the laundromat was short of quarters to do their laundry. Or there was the guy who was about a buck short of being able to buy a nice card for his mother’s birthday. I gave him the dollar. I mean, it was his mother for crying out loud. Little things like that. I wish I could do more. And I usually told them the same thing Henry told me, “Just try to so the same thing for someone else some day. That will be repayment enough for me.” And I meant it, too. But I know I could never do it on the scale that Larry Stewart did. Few among us could.

Larry Stewart was the man known previously only as the Secret Santa. He would go around Kansas City giving away $100 bills to total strangers and then walking away quickly before too much of a fuss could be made. Unable to pay his breakfast tab at a diner, he was the recipient of a random act of kindness when the diner owner said, “Here, sir, you must have dropped this,” and slipped a $20 bill in his hand. Larry never forgot the stranger’s help and vowed to repeat it if he could. Though he kept his identity secret all these years, he was still heard of in other countries. He would have preferred to remain anonymous and continue doing his good deeds. But he has decided that he wants to talk about what he’s done because he wants to encourage other people to commit random acts of kindness, too, and he knew he would have to come forward to do that. Sadly, he has been diagnosed with cancer and this Christmas may be his last.

I think it would be a wonderful gesture if people who learned of his story sent him a Christmas card this year to let him know how much people like him are appreciated. I learned of this address from Q104.3 FM, and I hope it’s accurate. You can send your cards to:

Secret Santa

P.O. Box 5891

Kansas City, MO 64171

As you sit down to give thanks this year, put in a good word for all the people like Larry Stewart and Henry Scull, people willing to help out total strangers for nothing more than the pleasure it gives them to do so. And have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving weekend.


Anonymous said...

Oy Wayne,

Can I stop being nice now? My face hurts! New post.....? Heh.


Lisa said...

This comment by Kingston makes me want to vomit. He should tell that to single mothers who have to work 2 or more jobs just to support her family, or tell it to the many soldiers who have been deployed overseas for 2 or 3 rotations since these asswipes have been in power.

Lisa said...

I also enjoy commiting random acts of kindness and senseless beauty. I have bagged older and disabled people's groceries at the grocery store, asked men who appear to be WW II vet age if they are vets and if so, thank them for their sacrifices (my father was a vet and so am I), thanked firefighters and police officers for putting their lives on the line every day for me, taken a few minutes to sit with an elderly person and talk to them, and try to greet everyone with a smile and a genuine "How are you today?" It's amazing how wonderful these little acts of random kindness will make you feel.

Read about your blog at TP and decided to check it out. Nice job and will bookmark it.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

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