The Kindness of Strangers

These days, the world is full of noise. To those of us who have reached a certain age (ahem), even the new music sounds like noise. But no matter which side of the political fence you’re on, and whatever your age, gender, race, or ethnic mix, we probably all agree on one thing: that far too many people seem to be angry and stressed and pointing fingers at each other.

           

Thanks to the ever-cranking Internet, the news squawks at us 24/7, and it’s rarely good.  Even the weather feels more unpredictable and ferocious. Taken all together, you might believe that the world is a pretty dark place.

           

Except that it’s not. Not really. Thankfully, people are always doing kind and generous things. But small miracles rarely make the front page, the evening news, or the latest tweetstorm.  As it is, our human ability to rise to our best selves seems to be reinvented anew with each sudden and heartbreaking tragedy. Yet we don’t have to wait for the next terrible event to see it again. The fact is, it’s always in there. It’s just kind of quiet.

           

 

I think kindness is something we need to recognize and celebrate; it deserves at least as much attention as the bad things going on.  So that’s what “The Kindness of Strangers” is all about. The title has become a modern catch phrase, but of course the original comes from the great Tennessee Williams play in which Blanche DuBois says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” (Bonus points if you know which one.)

           

This new column will be devoted to those small, warm, unexpected acts of kindness from strangers – not family members or significant others – that brighten the day and touch the heart.  These will be suggested by you, the readers. We hope you will share your true-life stories with The Pawling Record. 

           

Please note: You don’t have to wait for something really “big” to happen. For instance, the idea for this column was partially inspired by a relatively minor event. I recently noticed that my license plate seemed about to fly off my car, and was told by a guy to go to an auto parts store for the special bolts to hold it on. Not knowing of any such places nearby, and assuming that auto “body” was roughly the same thing, I rolled into a local shop, Dutchess Auto, and explained my concern. 

           

A nice man named Eddie listened to me patiently, checked both the back and front plates, and quickly fixed the one hanging off without needing a bolt at all. What started me thinking about kindness is that, not only did he solve my problem and refuse any money for doing so, but he didn’t even laugh at me for confusing auto “parts” with “body.” He could have, since it was pretty dumb. But instead, he just made me smile. 

           

I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Yet even his small kindness lifted my mood, and made a positive difference in my day. Has something like that happened to you? It might have been years ago, but you still remember the moment. Share it with us and give us all a lift, including the stranger who was kind to you! Your stories will be collected, gently edited for length, and published in this space. Thanks in advance for your news! Your acts of kindness and generosity can be emailed to Submissions@PawlingRecord.org.

                                                                                               

A retired college professor, musician and avid gardener, Judith Schlesinger has published two books and is the host of “Dr. J’s Jazz Emporium” on Pawling Public Radio. Her website is www.theinsanityhoax.com.  

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