There was a time when I didn’t know about random acts of kindness. Have you ever gone through a toll booth and been told your toll was already paid by the car ahead of you? Or had a dish of jello sent to your table at a highway diner by the smiling waitress who told you it was courtesy of the man who just left? I have.
My response was to laugh and immediately pay the toll for the car in back of me! As I drove on I wondered whether the smiling toll taker was taking all his tolls that day for the car just behind? Think of all the people who might have left smiling – not to mention the toll taker who had a story to bring home that day.
I haven’t had any opportunities to send anyone free dishes of jello because I don’t spend time in highway diners anymore.
Now that I think of these acts of kindness I am reminded of others. In 1966 I was just getting used to driving. I drove my then husband to Bradley airport and began to drive home to West Hartford. It was dark and I got lost on a narrow road. Suddenly a police car with its siren pulled me over to the side of the road. While the policeman took out his pad and was asking me for my driver’s license several cars drove past us. I had been holding up traffic. “Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“I had to drive my husband to the airport, but I got lost,” I explained. “I don’t know this area, at all.”
The policeman took out his pad. “Did you have anything to drink at the airport?”
It seemed an odd question to me. I never drank at all. I thought carefully. “Well, I did have a chocolate covered cherry cordial while I was driving,” I answered.
The policeman threw up his hands and laughed. “O.K. You should know that sometimes when people drive very slowly, it means they are intoxicated. Where do you need to go?” He gave me directions and sent me on my way.
Policemen must give acts of kindness often. One very early May 1st morning I was driving through Charlemont and was stopped by a policeman. He told me I was speeding and took out his pad to give me a ticket. I was very flustered and apologized. “I’m so sorry officer, but I was rushing to finish getting my May Baskets delivered before it got too light.” He peered at the baskets of pansies on the back seat, shook his head and put away his pad. “Go on – but go slower!”
There is a shared joy in these acts of kindness; they were unexpected gifts. And now I find out there is actually a Random Acts of Kindness holiday, celebrated annually on February 17. There is even a Random Acts of Kindness website, in case you can’t think of some small thing to pass on to a stranger – or a friend. The website offers lots and lots of ideas.
As gardeners we are performing random acts of kindness all the time. Gardeners just can’t help themselves. We are always sharing seeds, and divisions of plants that have gotten too big. We bring potted flowering plants to those who can’t garden the way they used to, and make bouquets to bring to our friends who are ill. We share our vegetable and fruit bounty.
Gardeners spread random acts of kindness around the community. My volunteer group planted the public garden at the John Zon Community Center, and then we watered it and kept it weeded. We wanted to make a beautiful garden for the public – and for the pollinators. Volunteers also plant and maintain the pollinator gardens at the Energy Park.
Gardeners donate plants and labor to plant sales that will beautify the community. I once spent a morning potting up plants for the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in May. I possibly potted a dozen plants, but when the plant sale was set up I saw the 1,300 plants potted up by volunteers.
We hold Garden Open Today tours to share our enthusiasm, our experiences and our knowledge. Garden clubs use their raised funds to encourage children to learn from their school gardens, or to support institutions like Forbes Library.
Not all random acts of kindness occur in the garden. There are scores of volunteers at our Franklin Medical Center. When we civilians enter the hospital we can use kindness – and volunteers cheerfully supply it. I speak from experience.
Our wonderful Greenfield Library has dozens of volunteers who help in many ways, including delivering books to those who can not longer get to the library. They bring the books and get to share teatime and bookish conversations.
There are volunteers working in the schools in many capacities. Children know they are loved by their parents but then they go out to the wide world of School and find kindness there. First, their teachers love them, and then the volunteers do. I read to a first grade most Fridays, and I can tell you that I get more kindness than I give because I have 16 little people laughing and sitting at my feet.
Volunteers cook up great lunches at the Stone Soup Café every Saturday. Those lunches are free to those in need and others are pay-what-you-can. Those meals are delicious!
Clearly, kindness is not limited to a single day in the year. Kindness is all around us, waiting to be shared.###
Between the Rows February 16, 2019