This week I was in Ace Hardware getting some keys made. While the employee made the keys, I wandered around their gift section looking for a housewarming gift. My back was hurting and I had my hand on my back. When I went to pay for my purchases, the young woman at checkout, who looked all of nineteen, asked in a very concerned voice, “Is your back hurting?” I responded in the affirmative and said I’d had back surgery. The back is much better, I said, but still hurts sometimes. “Do you get treatment for it?” she continued. I told her that yes, I do some massage and some chiropractic. She said, “Oh, that’s the best.” As I exited the store, she called after me, “I hope you get to feeling better.” That cost her nothing but I felt the comforting glow of her sweet gesture.
I know I often miss opportunities to do this very same sort of random act of kindness. For whatever reason, I don’t notice or I don’t take time to offer it. But this brought to mind another kind of random act, which I would term “random acts of responsibility.” This is actually a painful disclosure and is perhaps directed more towards myself than anyone else. But I offer it on the off chance that someone else out there might benefit from the reminder.
Some years ago, while I was still in practice as a therapist, I was in the grocery store and encountered a woman who looked like she had been battered. One eyeball was partially out of the socket and she looked like she had some bruises. But she had this goofy smile on her face and was going down the aisle selecting groceries. I simply couldn’t process that this person was functioning as though everything was normal when it clearly wasn’t. She didn’t make any effort to convey she was in any pain or in search of any help and I didn’t offer any. I suspect she was experiencing shock. But her face has haunted me through the years, as has my lack of response.
Why didn’t I say, “Do you need some help?” Maybe because I thought I might be called on to get involved? Even young children put me to shame these days: a seven year old in Texas began a nonprofit called Mac and Cheese and Pancakes to get kid-favorite foods donated to food pantries; a 10 year old in Massachusetts sold over $13,000 worth of baseball card to help with expenses for two friends with cancer; due to a kindergarten student with cerebral palsy, a fifth grade class in Michigan approached their principal about making a handicap accessible playground and began a fundraiser to make it happen.
So much of life is limited only by our creativity, imagination, and willingness to respond to those needs we encounter.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
P.S. Hope’s Café Bonus: In honor of Kaden Newton, view his Facebook site for Mac and Cheese and Pancakes. If you google Mac and Cheese and Pancakes, you will see recipes for Mac and Cheese Pancakes; one recipe includes a side of hotdogs; and I even saw a recipe for Mac and Cheesecake. Who knew?? 😊