“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Stop and consider where you are on your personal journey in life. Think about how you have gotten to the place where you are. Consider that you are where you are, and you have been able to do what you’ve done, because of something that someone did for you. If you stop to think about it right now, you could pinpoint a time in your life; a turning point perhaps even, when someone did something that made all of the difference in the world—to you.
Now stop to consider right now, the effect that you may have had on someone else’s life. For someone else, something that you did made the biggest difference in the world! What you did may have even been a turning point for them. You did something for someone else that, for you, was no big deal but, for them it was life changing. Doing something thoughtful for someone else may seem like “not much” to you but to that someone else it could just mean the world. The kindness that you show and the help that you are willing to give by just doing what you think is right, likely means a whole lot more to someone than you will ever know.
I was scared and I was homesick. I was leaving home for the first time to begin my freshman year at Spelman, an all women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia. It had been less than a week since I left my family and friends behind in Madison, Wisconsin—the place where I had lived my whole life when, I decided I had to make a drastic move. I knew that the only way that I would survive without actually giving in and going home, was to go and see my grandma. My grandmother just happened to be visiting my Uncle in Durham, North Carolina. Durham was just a few hours from Atlanta by train and so it was reasonable for me to go and be back within a couple of days.
I arrived at the Amtrak station in Atlanta at about ten at night on a Friday. I remember looking up and seeing a reminder from the past that still remained in tact; a sign that read “Colored Waiting Room.” Eighteen-years-old, scared out of my mind, first time away from home and in the middle of the night in a strange train station with a civil rights violation staring me in the face. I looked up and I saw what would turn out to be an “angel.”
There on the other side of the waiting room sat a young man with an elderly woman. They must have recognized that I was scared because they motioned for me to come and sit with them. It turned out that this man lived and worked in Atlanta. He was a graduate of Morehouse College (Morehouse is an all men’s college and the brother school to Spleman, just right across the street). The elderly woman was his grandmother and he was seeing her off as she was heading back home to Durham.
I rode to Durham that night with his grandmother—on my way to see mine. We rode together and shared stories and ate her home made fried chicken. When we got to North Carolina, it was about three in the morning and her ride was nowhere in sight. So, I waited with her until her ride came and then I got a taxi. About a week later, I got a call from her grandson. He thanked me for being so kind to his grandmother. He gave me his phone number and told me that I had made a friend for life. He said that if I ever needed anything that I was to give him a call.
My freshman year at Spelman turned out to be one of the best years of my life. Then, at the end of the year, I found myself with a big problem. I was without a dorm room assignment for the following term. Spelman was experiencing a housing shortage at the time and we had to participate in a lottery to get a room. I didn’t win a room in the lottery and my mother had said, “Without a dorm room, you are not going back”. The thought of not returning for my sophomore year represented “the end of the world” to me. I worried and worried through final exams and all of the end-of-the-year activities trying to figure out how I could work all this out.
Then I remembered “the angel” and what he said, “If you ever need anything, give me a call.” So, I called him. I shared with him my problem. He told me that he could take care of it and he asked me to hold on while he made a phone call. He conferenced in the Dean of the school and I listened silently as they chatted for a moment like old friends. He shared with her my dilemma and before he hung up with her, I had my room assignment for the next year! I am convinced that that phone call, that one moment, changed my whole life.
The kindness that you show, the help that you are willing to give, you just doing what you think is right, likely means a whole lot more to someone than you will ever know.
Just recently, as I was remembering his special gesture of kindness, I decided to try and find him and let him know that what he had done that day for me meant a whole lot. I found his email address and wrote him to say thanks. He wrote back and he said that he not only remembered those events, he also remembered his exact words:
“Thank you for helping my grandmother. Helping her has made you a friend for life and if I could ever help you please call!”
He shared with me that today he is a Congressman. He also shared that he was recovering from a serious illness and that he had read one of my articles in Dana Delivered! and was inspired to fight on. Hearing from him, remembering what had happened over twenty years ago, discovering that I had somehow inspired him made me smile. Imagine. Who would have thought that being kind to someone would set in motion a chain of events that would bring a smile to my life many years after the fact?
And you? Can you remember now who that person was for you? Can you remember what you did for someone else? Perhaps your unselfish act of kindness has made a difference for someone that may have changed his or her life.
“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will some day. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.”—Robert Alan
Today, consider that when you express kindness you are planting a seed that will produce, because the kindness you show will find it’s way right back to you! Kindness is what builds communities and communities are what support people in living life to the fullest.
Maybe you are thought of as “an angel” for someone out there today because you came to the rescue, you simply took the time and set in motion events that will serve you for the rest of your life, and inspired that someone to call you friend.
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