Random Acts of Kindness, redux.Posted: July 24, 2012
If you have been reading here, you’ve read about some of the kind people in my neighborhood. Remember The Entrepreneur who gave me a bracelet one day when I had no money with me to buy his wares as I sometimes do? And the young woman who kindly chatted with me as we walked home from church, only to find that we were neighbors?
Since those times, I am sure that I smiled and said hello to hundreds of passersby as I went about my days, walking on my slate sidewalks with my head in the clouds unless admiring flowers on my paths or herons on my neighbor’s roof.
One day last week I was walking, fast and with attempted perfect posture, strengthening my core and getting exercise whilest seeing the world. (You know how my world works, right? Be healthy, be happy; I can more or less control those things!)
It was a stifling hot day and I had walked for blocks but I still had lots of energy and a bit more time, so I chose random side streets, walking down one and up another in the general direction of home. I try to walk different streets for fresh views: architectural details on glorious old houses, the landscaping, the people on porches or in front yards.
As I rounded one corner, I caught a hand-lettered sign of Street Sale, and sure enough as I glanced down the avenue it looked as though all the living rooms had been emptied out upon the front lawns.
As I didn’t catch the sale early, there were no juicy buys for me, but it was interesting to view all of the things that people thought they might sell. I had read that old computer monitors could be used to make fish tanks or terrariums, and maybe some of the people who don’t judge books by their covers don’t care if there actually are covers, but I like covered books. I do like old furniture, but have no room for more of that, so alas, I just looked as I walked down the street.
Unfortunately two lemonade stands had sold-out in the heat and were being dismantled or I might have purchased lemonade. Cold lemonade; it was a nice thought.
As I walked upon the sidewalk (concrete, not slate) I noticed a woman walking slightly ahead of me but in the street. She was walking very slowly, and no wonder: she had half a closet’s worth of clothing on hangers over one arm and up to her chin, a duffle bag over the other shoulder, and she carried a large full garbage bag with each hand. She walked a couple of steps then stopped, heaved the bags, set them down, walked a couple more steps. It was uncomfortable even to watch her.
I figured that she with her purchases was walking to one of the cars parked along the street. She could not be going far, that was for sure; she’d never make it.
When I caught up to her, I asked : “Can I help you carry any of that?”
She immediately dropped the bags and her whole body seemed to sigh in relief. “Ughhhh!”
As it happened, she wasn’t walking to any of the cars lining the street. She was walking to a bus stop, on another street. Welllll, I was in no hurry, after all, and she was looking wilted and over-laden with yard-sale merchandise. Hmmm. OK, let me take the garbage bags.
She gratefully handed them over. They weighed a ton! No wonder she couldn’t walk!
So, where is the bus stop?
She did not know. She only knew where the one was when she had arrived. She had never ridden back from here; it wasn’t her neighborhood. She explained that she’d come across town for the sale. As it was a weekend, the cross-town bus would not be frequent. Maybe every hour or so.
Alright, we knew the direction that the bus would be going, we knew which street, so we proceeded. The heat of the afternoon intensified, or felt so with the heavy carrying, and the breeze was warm and not very merciful. My hat blew off and my hair tumbled down, blowing in my mouth and sticking to my warm skin, and there I was lugging garbage bags. Don’t even imagine how I must have looked; it can’t be pretty.
As we neared the end of the block, the cross street ahead came into view, a very swanky avenue. “I got off the bus there,” she pointed, and I looked across a courtyard and a small park to a bus stop still half a block away.
Suddenly: “Oh Nooo! There is my bus!” She sounded horrified and she stopped walking. No wonder: who would want to stand on the side of the road in the hot sun For An Hour, outfitted with enough clothes for a large boutique or a small army?
I did what any already-disheveled level-headed woman would do: I ran with my (her) trash bags. I ran the rest of the way up the street we were on, across the little park, and thankfully had a break in traffic so that I could dart across the street that the bus was on, landing on the curb as the bus was ready to pass by.
You think I’d run all that way and let the bus pass me by? I dropped the bags and flagged down the driver, who shook her head NO (she wasn’t supposed to stop because it wasn’t officially a bus stop). I must have looked Plaintive. Or disheveled with a purpose. Or, the bus driver was into random acts of kindness and realized No One would want to wait for the next bus on this hot day.
In any case, the bus driver stopped, opened the bus doors, and leaned out to tell me that she couldn’t stop.
I said, “OK, that woman there (Where? Oh dear, she was still on the other side of the street and had not yet been able to cross through the traffic!)… That woman has all of this… stuff… and she needs to be on this bus.”
I heaved each large bag into the bus as the bus driver shook her head, and a man in a front seat stood to help with the bags. Then the woman arrived. I let her pass in front of me. She was panting and struggled to get her armloads of clothing up the steps and into the bus.
It was a quick goodbye. The bus driver scowled as I thanked her and wished her a good weekend, and the woman said, “huhthank you! suh ho… Much!”
As the door of the bus closed, she called out, “God Bless You!”
I have to say, this did add a bit more purpose to my little day.
Hope your days are happy,