One day, while shopping for a few select items at the store, I found myself short 65 cents, when it came time to pay at the register. A kind man in line behind me placed some change on the counter to cover the balance. I was so pleased that a stranger would do that; I had doubts that there were good people left in our cynical world.
After he was finished purchasing his own items, that filled many bags, I offered to help carry them to his car. He smiled at the gesture but graciously declined the offer. “I can manage. Besides, a lady shouldn’t have to carry a gentleman’s bags,” he said. “Instead, you can do something for someone else, and share that kindness with another.”
It wasn’t long before I had the opportunity to just that. My next stop was the post office, and a mother with two young children and a baby in a carrier, was trying to carry some packages to the counter. I swooped in and asked if I may help. The look of relief on her face was priceless. I imagined this must have been one of a hundred errands she had to make, and felt like collapsing at any moment.
I felt like one of the elves from The Elves and the Shoemaker, by the Grimm Brothers. Here is the story if you are not familiar with it.
The Elves and the Shoemaker
by the Grimm Brothers
There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest: but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.
Then he cut his leather out, all ready to make up the next day, meaning to rise early in the morning to his work. His conscience was clear and his heart light amidst all his troubles; so he went peaceably to bed, left all his cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep. In the morning after he had said his prayers, he sat himself down to his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes all ready made, upon the table. The good man knew not what to say or think at such an odd thing happening. He looked at the workmanship; there was not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that it was quite a masterpiece.
The same day a customer came in, and the shoes suited him so well that he willingly paid a price higher than usual for them; and the poor shoemaker, with the money, bought leather enough to make two pairs more. In the evening he cut out the work, and went to bed early, that he might get up and begin betimes next day; but he was saved all the trouble, for when he got up in the morning the work was done ready to his hand. Soon in came buyers, who paid him handsomely for his goods, so that he bought leather enough for four pair more. He cut out the work again overnight and found it done in the morning, as before; and so it went on for some time: what was got ready in the evening was always done by daybreak, and the good man soon became thriving and well off again.
One evening, about Christmas-time, as he and his wife were sitting over the fire chatting together, he said to her, ’I should like to sit up and watch tonight, that we may see who it is that comes and does my work for me.’ The wife liked the thought; so they left a light burning, and hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind a curtain that was hung up there, and watched what would happen.
As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and they sat themselves upon the shoemaker’s bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and began to ply with their little fingers, stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate, that the shoemaker was all wonder, and could not take his eyes off them. And on they went, till the job was quite done, and the shoes stood ready for use upon the table. This was long before daybreak; and then they bustled away as quick as lightning.
The next day the wife said to the shoemaker. ’These little wights have made us rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them a good turn if we can. I am quite sorry to see them run about as they do; and indeed it is not very decent, for they have nothing upon their backs to keep off the cold. I’ll tell you what, I will make each of them a shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a pair of pantaloons into the bargain; and do you make each of them a little pair of shoes.’
The thought pleased the good cobbler very much; and one evening, when all the things were ready, they laid them on the table, instead of the work that they used to cut out, and then went and hid themselves, to watch what the little elves would do.
About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.
Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green.
The good couple saw them no more; but everything went well with them from that time forward, as long as they lived.
Today is a special day when you can be like those elves, or the man in the checkout line. It is Random Acts of Kindness Day, and even the smallest of considerations can make someone’s day. Your act of kindness can have a profound effect on others and yourself.
If you are not sure what you should do, consider holding a door open for others, clearing the snow off your neighbor’s sidewalk, or let someone with fewer items go before you at the register. Maybe you could pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive thru. Even smiling and saying, “Good morning,” to a stranger, can make a good impact.
You shouldn’t be kind just to get a thank you or recognition; you should want to do it because you know it would make someone else feel good. Of course, when you cheer someone up, there is nothing wrong with being pleased. Kindness should make everyone feel better.
If you accomplish a couple of kind acts today, and feel all warm and fuzzy inside, consider extending the day to a week, a month, or more. You can spread joy far and wide, and feel better for it.