During the height of holiday franticness, I was driving around town with a friend. We both commented on the demonstrated lack of Christmas spirit by our fellow drivers. People cut in front of us, sped past us, and were generally rude. It saddened me to see that the holidays had brought out worse, rather than better, behavior. Few of us were helping with peace on earth or showing good will toward others.
I don’t think we realize the impact that our actions have on others. Small acts can make a huge difference in someone’s life for good or ill. I was reminded of a time more than a decade ago when two people took the time to do a good deed. I feel immense gratitude for their actions to this day. Seriously, it makes me tear up with thankfulness whenever I think about it.
We were on a family vacation. Honestly, the details of where we were and where we were going are fuzzy. I think we were traveling by public transit to a ballpark outside of NYC. There were a lot of people on the train with us. My two sons were elementary school-age. When we moved to get off, my oldest son got trapped and didn’t get through the door in time. He was on the train, and the rest of us were off.
His father made a valiant effort to force the door open and was almost drug away by the train. I had read a lot of parenting and safety books and knew what to do. I went to the window, looked at my son and yelled through the glass, “Get off at the next stop and wait for us. We will be there as soon as we can.”
He was standing there, a small child in a group of adults. What happened next still brings a lump to my throat. A man and woman traveling separately both stepped towards him. One yelled through the glass, “I have him.” The other yelled, “I will wait with him.” The relief on both my son’s face and mine was obvious.
We all jumped on the next train, and when we got to the next stop, we saw my son standing on the platform with a man who was chatting amiably with him. The woman stood apart but was watchful. I get her and love her. She was making sure that the man was honorable. I was so relieved and grateful that I could have hugged them both and made them my best friends for the rest of our lives.
I have no idea what was on their agenda for that day. I don’t know if they missed meetings or were late for appointments. However, the 20 minutes they gave to us were some of the most significant moments in my life. I hope they know what an enormous impact they had in my life and my son’s. I hope they can feel my gratitude flowing toward them now.
Smaller, less time-consuming acts also can have a positive impact. Any time other drivers let me over into their lane, I wave to say thank you and send a small blessing for a good day and life their way. They have lowered my stress and improved my day.
Commitments to consistently and purposefully help can also change lives. I am fortunate to have a sister and son who made the commitment to call me every day when I was having a rough time. 2017 was a terrible year for me – lots of change and uncertainty. Much of the time, I was desolate and depressed. To be perfectly honest, I felt suicidal much of the time. I doubt that anyone, even my sister and son, knew the depth of my despair.
Yet they called over and over. They chatted with me and gave me hope. They knew I was sad and struggling and wanted to help. At the time, they had no idea how much they helped. They were literally my lifelines.
My son called as he drove home from work. There were construction and a weird traffic pattern that required him to cross lanes of traffic, which was usually at a crawl. He groused and yelled most days because no one was letting him get over. The other drivers would nudge the car ahead to be sure that he had no way to get in.
My call to everyone is “Let Andrew over.” You will improve Andrew’s day. You will ease a mother’s heart. You will actually feel better for the act of kindness. You will be supporting someone who is helping another. You will make the world a better place.
New year, new way of thinking. We all have the power to improve the lives around us and our own lives through small acts of kindness. When someone needs to get into your lane – in any real or metaphorical sense – pretend it’s Andrew, and please let him over. Your action will earn my undying gratitude and a blessing on your day and life.
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