Tag Archives: The New Yorker

Day 734: Random or not-so-random, kindness matters

coverstory-blitt-newspaper-revised-875x1200-1478270888I love hearing about random acts of kindness. That’s basically what this whole blog is about. Those small, everyday kindnesses that can make a big difference to someone else.

So I found this article by Dr. Susan Smalley, called There are no random acts of kindness: the non-random nature of kindness is key to its value, really interesting.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think it is a misnomer to describe acts of kindness as random; kindness arises with an intention to “be kind” followed by an action. While the acts may be directed toward anonymous people or animals, the person’s act of kindness is anything but random — it is deliberate and directional — non-random in nature.

I think that the non-random nature of kindness is key to its value. It reflects a conscious choice on the part of the actor, to give, to help, to share and to soothe. It seems to me that it is in the conscious choice we reveal our role in shaping our own humanity and even our evolutionary future.

The preparation of a sack lunch for a loved one is full of kindness; it is intentional and directional. I remember writing little notes and including small “surprises” (e.g. Hershey kiss) for my kids in their lunches when they were little. A sack lunch can carry a lot of love within it.The other day I saw my daughter preparing a “sack lunch” for her boyfriend who is in a rather rigorous 5 day a week 8 hour a day school program. She wrote his name on the bag — just like I used to do for her and her brothers when they were little. It was such a sweet act of kindness, and it made me think about all those sack lunches that will be prepared in the next months as the fall school season begins.

But there are many non-random acts of kindness around us all the time. When we meet a homeless man or woman on the street, we may offer a cup of coffee, give some change, or just wish them well with a smile and hello. That is anything but random — we choose to place our attention on them and we choose how to respond — with kindness or not…

I think what we really want to practice are more non-random acts of kindness – directed to those we know and to those we don’t know – as much possible.

I am sure it will make our lives happier and the world a kinder place.

So, whether we call them random or deliberate is clearly not the important thing. But that we try to do them at all.

One very non-random thing I’ve done a couple of times is to donate stacks of my beloved New Yorker magazine (which I try to read cover to cover, because every issue is just so dang amazing, but don’t always get to do) at my local hospital.

They conveniently have a big bin near the entrance to collect reading material for patients and their friends and families. What a great idea!

Recycling is all well and good but if you can share a great read with others that, to me, is an act of kindness… although definitely not a random one.

p.s.

Song of the day, for the holidays. Enjoy!

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Day 636: Token gesture

I think I had my most awkward good-deed moment ever today. I was standing on the streetcar feeling mighty tired when I saw an open seat near the front.

Well, half an open seat. A young guy was sitting by the window on a diagonal so that he was taking up  half of the seat next to him. Too tired to care, I settled for half a seat and sort of perched on the edge of it, leaning into the aisle.

The guy looked shocked someone sat down but instead of moving over and making more room, he pulled out a handful of bus tokens from his pocket.

He asked me if I wanted to buy a bunch from him so he could get something to eat. He was in his early twenties, with a scruffy beard, dirty blond curly hair and worn jeans.

I took some money from my wallet, gave it to him and told him he could hang on to his tokens.

That’s where the awkwardness came in. Normally, if a stranger asks me for money I either give them some and keep walking or just keep walking.

‘What do I do now?’ I wondered. He’d turned to stare out the window so chatting about the weather didn’t seem like an option. Nor did rudely getting up and moving to the back of the streetcar.

I was still perched on half a seat so getting up actually seemed like the most comfortable option but also the most obnoxious.

Just when I decided I was overreacting and should just sit back and enjoy my half-seat back to the subway, he decided to stand and get off the streetcar.

As he squished past me, I noticed he had a squeegee stuffed in his back pocket, which is probably why he was sitting diagonally in the first place.

I’m curious, what would you guys have done? Stayed put? Stood up? Asked him to squeegee your glasses? Please let me know in the comments.

P.S. Very cool video of a sunrise over a beach (that I found HERE). Enjoy!

P.P.S. New Yorker cartoon from HERE.

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Day 442: Extra, extra, read all about it

ThurberWineCartoonYou know how your mother always told you not to run with scissors, or other risky childhood high jinks, because “you could lose an eye.” I think I might have come across the original inspiration for that dire warning.

Let me back up. Today being Wednesday, my newspaper friend Mr. Singh was dutifully at his post at the subway exit this morning with an armful of Outreach Connections (the paper created and sold “to help the homeless and the unemployed”).

It was starting to rain, so we didn’t get to chat for long, but he did point out his “Notable Quotable” on the front page. Here it is:

“The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself.”
James Thurber (1894-1961)

I’ve read a few of James Thurber’s humorous essays and one of his short stories (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) but didn’t know much else about him.

Here’s what I found out:

● Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, on December 8, 1894.

● In the 1920s, he established himself as a professional writer and editor, joining the staff of The New Yorker magazine in 1927, with the help of his friend, and fellow New Yorker editor E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web).

● His career as a New Yorker cartoonist began in 1930 when White found some of Thurber’s drawings in a trash can and submitted them for publication.

James Thurber's failing eyesight didn't hold back his creativity.

James Thurber's failing eyesight didn't hold back his creativity.

And, sorry to leave you in suspense, here’s the source of that childhood cautionary tale:

Thurber had two brothers, William and Robert. Once, while playing, his brother William shot James in the eye with an arrow.

Because of the lack of medical technology, Thurber lost his eye.

This injury would later cause him to be almost entirely blind.

So, as usual, mom was right….

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