Kindness doesn't always happen where you first intended.


Sometimes a purposeful act of kindness isn’t meant to be. Or at least not in the time and place it was planned for. Sometimes making the effort in one place prepares you for another – one where the kindness is both welcomed and appreciated.

This morning, while on our way to a family birthday celebration, my wife and I stopped at a local supermarket to pick up the last of the gift cards that we wanted to share. On my way into the store I couldn’t help but see an older woman hunched into a ball behind an outdoor display with the few bags that appeared to hold her only possessions. In the blink of an eye, without additional information, I judged her to be homeless, hungry, and in need of kind act.

I continued on my way into the store and, as if it was meant to be, the very first counter I came to was a deli display filled with prepared sandwiches. I lifted one from the counter along with a few packets of condiments, a plastic knife, and a few napkins. I then completed my shopping and when leaving the store went to the woman and asked if she would enjoy a fresh sandwich from the deli. She raised her head slowly, looked me in the eye and replied with a polite “no thank you."

I was stunned. Why would the woman turn down such a simple and well-intentioned gesture? Frankly, I’ll never know the answer. I took the sandwich to the car, told my wife what had happened, and went onto a local restaurant where we would enjoy a birthday brunch with my four sisters. That could have been the end of it. But it wasn’t.

A few hours later, while on the way home, a young woman was standing on the curb where we approached a busy intersection. The light was red and we were several cars away from her position. I could see that she was holding an all to familiar cardboard sign with a message, but it wasn’t until we rolled closer that I could read the words… “Every little bit of love helps!"

I lowered the passenger side window and handed the sandwich, still in the bag with condiments and napkins, to my wife. “Are you hungry?” Cindy asked her.

“Why yes!” she replied with a smile as the sandwich changed hands. “Thank you so much!”

The traffic light turned green and the opportunity was over just as quickly as it had presented itself. We continued on our way home without another word about either of the two women – the first, for which the kindness was intended but not welcomed, and the second, who wasn’t the intended beneficiary but welcomed it with a genuine smile.

Opportunities for kindness, even small purposeful acts, often come at times when you may not be planning for them. We can’t always deliver kindness when and how we plan. We can, however, act in the moment of opportunity when we learn to live with kindness in our hearts and on our minds.

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  • Tony
    Apr. 28, 2013
    Well done Rod, and good job not giving up on the initial plan to do something kind!

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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