> Spirituality > Personal Growth

After You

December 30, 2009 | by Tova Younger

Small acts of kindness make a big difference.

The story sent out from the website "Touch of Kindness," established years ago by Shmuel Greenbaum in memory of his wife who was murdered in the Sbarro Pizza bombing, caught my attention. The writer always allows anxious drivers to pass him -- with a wave of the hand or a smile. How I wish I had seen this idea before we moved to Israel when I still had a car! I would have loved to perform this small act, especially given the road rage so prevalent in my former home of Los Angeles.

But the idea stuck. We usually think, No one is going to push me around. I waited, let them wait. We can actually reframe our thoughts to, I have an extra minute or two. I’ll let this harried, frantic driver go ahead. It’s really nothing to me – but to him, it’s bringing intense relief. It costs so little yet creates so much pleasure. So how could I apply it?

One day at my local grocery store, it hit me. I was getting ready to pay, with an anxious customer right near me surveying the lines. She had only an item or two, and I made my pitch. “Would you like to go ahead of me? I see you haven’t got many items and I've got a cart full.”

Her relief was palpable. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asked, moving into place.

“Not at all!" I realized that this could be my kindness!

As I shopped in my local market or other stores, I began to look forward to the time spent waiting in line, wondering if I would have a chance to enhance someone’s shopping experience by saving them a few minutes at check-out time. I would keep my eye peeled for the customer holding an item or two, a desperate expression on her face. Ironically, some customers would occasionally just cut in front of me and my smile would begin to slip. I had to hold back from reminding them that I was waiting to pay and there was a line here. I rebuked myself instead. Make believe they asked! Make believe they looked anxious and you offered. So what if that's not what happened…you're not here to teach them manners; just work on yourself!

Once on the kindness-warpath at the grocery, I found more opportunities to help out. I made it my business to greet the cashiers with a smile and ask them how their day was. I kept my eye peeled for shoppers that seemed to need help – often the elderly or young children – and got them the hard-to-reach items.

One day I was waiting on line with a full shopping cart and noticed a customer with a couple of items. I offered to let them pay ahead of me. They gladly accepted my offer, as did the next person. When I let a third customer ahead of me, my young daughter asked me, “When are we going to pay?”

“Honey, they just had an item or two. It’ll just take a couple of minutes and then it will be our turn. I would feel bad seeing them wait behind me, We have such a large order, I'd feel bad making them wait."

Just then, the cashier called out to me, “Giveret (Ma'am) – come to the next register – I’m opening up now.”

My daughter and I smiled at each other. I won’t know if the clerk had been paying attention, but one thing is for sure -- the Almighty was -- and so was my daughter.

We have so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, to indulge in such small acts of kindness and reap such disproportionately larger rewards. Here are some additional suggestions. Please send in yours.

  1. Smile at the retail sales clerk and say thank you (everyone else has been yelling at her all day).
  2. Hang up your clothes in the dressing room (the tired saleswoman will be very grateful).
  3. Stop by the kitchen door of the restaurant to tell the chef how delicious the food was (If the owner’s around, make sure to tell him also).
  4. Send a complimentary email to the boss of someone who has been particularly helpful.
  5. Bring dinner to a shut-in.
  6. Pick up groceries for a busy friend.
  7. Babysit for a tired mother. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t qualify as a small act!)
  8. Deliver flowers to someone who is feeling blue.
  9. Brainstorm with a friend for more ideas.


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