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January 4: Be Kind, Unexpectedly
Today’s recommendation is a bit different and it is based on a small but significant encounter I had with a stranger. But, first I need to backtrack to a comment I made two days ago on Snapchat to give you some context. As I was heading out to spend the day in NYC, I mentioned that although I was loving the beautiful sun shiny day we were having, I wished it would be colder, like 20ºF or even less (at the time it was 45ºF).
Ironically, yesterday was quite cold and with the wind gust, it always felt significantly less than what the thermostat was reporting. In fact, at 8:00pm, the weather app showed 19ºF as the recorded temperature but -2ºF as the “feels like” temperature. I know this because I was staring at the app, while sitting in my warm car with just a long sleeve t-shirt on and waiting to pick up my mom at the train station, when suddenly, I could hear a man talking to me from the outside.
I looked up to find a man who appeared to be in his early 40s, bundled up yet visibly shivering. He began speaking to me before I could fully register what was happening, and as a result, I missed the beginning part of his conversation. But when my brain did tune in, he was telling me that he doesn’t mean to startle me and he’s not a “bum” (his words) but his wife and him had been at the station since the previous night… and before he could finish his sentence, my mind began to conjure up several scenarios of what he was looking for.
My first thought, he needed a lift to someplace and although realistic, my mental reaction was not one that I am proud of. I thought to myself, “I can’t take two strangers in my car. I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to know that is not a smart move. But how will I evade the subject? How can I politely say no?” I quickly nudged my mind to come back to reality and listen to what he was actually saying. I then heard him say he was raising money for a hotel night and he was only $15 short. He explained how last night was very cold but tonight is incredibly colder and he’s not a crazy person, just that something was wrong with his hips and shoulder, etc. It felt like a lot of information and when I realized what he needed, my immediate reaction was to reach for my wallet and give him whatever money I had (only a $10 bill). I opened the window to give him the money, stating it was all I had and hoped for him and his wife to find warm shelter tonight. He was very grateful and my heart was aching for his pain.
I then watched him go across the parking lot twice, coming back to where I had seen him originally and then making his way towards the bus stop. The truth is, I can’t conclude anything from the encounter I had with him. I don’t know if he was being honest, if he was lying, if there was a wife or he was alone but what I do know is, I didn’t really care. I just felt an enormous amount of sadness and really wished for him to find warmth. Although, a lot of questions did cross my mind since then, like where did they come from? where are they trying to go? Why a hotel room? Where do they live? I decided not to ponder on any of those. Here was a man who needed help and I was in a position where I could afford to provide some form of relief. I’m sure he had asked plenty of people at the station before me and I imagine there were a fair amount of people who ignored him and a decent amount who helped. As I left the station, I prayed that he would be able to raise the money and on a bigger scale, I prayed he would be relieved from whatever situation that got him there in the first place.
Did I do enough? I don’t know. Did I do anything big? Most definitely not. But, in that moment, I remembered how important it was to be kind, and to be kind, unexpectedly. Kindness is the one act that can have an everlasting impact and more often than not, it does not take a lot of effort. We can find ways to be kind all the time, and yet, we so often pass it up. So my big take away: Be kind because you never know how much one act of kindness (however big or small) can make a difference in someone else’s life.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa