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Choose Kindness

My family and I have been the recipients of several acts of kindness over the years. Sometimes they’re large gestures. Most times it’s a kind word. Regardless, they’ve all been appreciated, and, as often as possible, we have tried to pay them forward when opportunities present themselves to do so.

For example, many years ago, when my wife and I were very young and just getting our lives started together, we found ourselves in the awkward position of trying to check out of a grocery store and not having enough cash to cover the bill.

A rookie move to say the least.

There we were at the register, going through the humiliating process of having our cashier void and remove items, when a woman behind us in line offered to pay the difference of whatever we owed.

It was a kindness imparted on us over twenty years ago, and one we’ve been forwarding to others we encounter in similar situations ever since. A 20+ year tradition, started by one positive experience with an absolute stranger. But one, I’d like to believe, has led to the helping of others in need.

As previously mentioned, a kind act does not have to be a grandiose, large demonstration that grabs the attention of the public. I’ve found that a smile and a hand shake can go a long way for someone who’s having a bad day. An ordinary pat on the back recognizing a job well-done, or simply acknowledging a person’s presence in a room is, by many accounts, the exact stimulation needed to provoke a positive change in mindset and thinking in a person..

As random acts go, compliments can go a very long way, too. In this day and age, however, some comments can be misinterpreted, or miscommunicated. But still, I stand by the idea that noticing a change in someone’s appearance, or just recognizing that someone looks nice is relatively harmless and welcome in most circles.

Sometimes, many times actually, a kindness shared with someone else will manage to find its way back to the source. As in the case of the following stories I found on the internet:

A Life for a Life

In 2011, an Orange County doctor was involved in a car accident that left him pinned and trapped in a burning vehicle. The responding paramedics, led by one Chris Trokey, arrived just in time to save the life of Dr. Michael Shannon.

What was not immediately known at the time was that Chris and Dr. Shannon were already acquainted. They had met thirty years earlier when Chris was a baby.

Chris Trokey was born 10 weeks premature, and required the care of a pediatric specialist when he inexplicably developed a sudden high fever. At the time, there was only one hospital in the area where he could be taken that had the people and equipment specialized in neonatal care. Unfortunately, his parents, Mike and Dee, would get the grim prognosis that Chris’ chances of survival were 50-50 due mainly to his premature development.

But one doctor dedicated himself to Chris’ care. So much so that he resorted to sleeping at baby Chris’ bedside’ ready to respond, if needed. He treated him, and helped him.

Thirty years later, that infant, now paramedic Chris Trokey, would return the life-saving favor. By pulling Dr. Shannon out of a burning vehicle.

Tip Big

One morning, after a long shift of fighting fires, two New Jersey firefighters, Tim Young and Paul Higgins, stopped by a diner to grab a bite to eat.

While they were eating, their waitress, Liz Woodward overheard the two firefighters discussing an apparently huge warehouse fire they battled during their shift, and Liz was compelled to show her gratitude for their service. So she paid for their meal.

Tim, obviously moved by the kind gesture, took to Facebook and shared the story with his friends and family. Going so far as to encourage them to “tip big” if Liz was ever their waitress.

But then he took it one step further.

Because what he learned about Liz was that she apparently had a GoFundMe page started to help her buy a new wheelchair accessible van for her father. According to the page, she estimated she would need about $17,000.

Well, after Mr. Young put out another message on social media asking for people to support Liz’s campaign to raise money for her father’s van, nearly 200 people responded, and raised over twice as much as she asked for initially. In the end, she successfully raised somewhere in the range of $38,000.

What started out as a seemingly small gesture to support a special group of individuals, turned into the kind of relief to support the needs of a special individual.

Fix a Flat

One night, Sara Berg and her cousin, Lisa, were traveling on a Wisconsin highway when suddenly one of their tires had a blowout. Unfortunately, neither woman knew how to change the tire, so they found themselves stranded. Luckily for them, a pair of good samaritans, Victor Giesbrecht and his wife Ann, would stop to help soon after.

Ann admitted to the two young ladies that the 61 year old Greisbrecht was a habitual roadside handy-man, so their stopping to provide assistance was not an uncommon occurrence for the couple.

Victor made quick work of the tire change, and soon the two were making their way back into the flow of traffic. Followed closely by Sara and Lisa. However, they had only traveled a short distance when Victor and his wife were pulling over once again.

Initially, Sara felt there was a chance that the couple might have forgotten something from their earlier encounter, so she pulled over, as well. She soon learned that there was something more serious going on.

Ann exited her vehicle waving her hands in the air and shouting, “I think Victor is having a heart attack!” To which Sara, a nurse’s assistant trained in CPR, quickly assessed the situation and instantly went to work.

Because little time was lost between when Victor began showing symptoms, to when Sara began CPR, it’s believed, that the good fortune of her being on the scene is ultimately what saved Mr. Giesbrecht’s life.

Victor Giesbrecht’s customary routine of kind deeds, on a random night in Wisconsin, was repaid in the form of nurse’s assistant Sara Berg’s life-saving action.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, an act of kindness does not have to be a large demonstration for all the world to see. Many times, it’s the small acts that make the biggest difference.

A smile, a handshake, a pat on the back, or a compliment are all subtle nuances that can impact another person in largely unknown, but positive ways. They can be the perfect little push, or spark, someone else uses to turn their day around for the better.

Or, as in the case of my wife and I, can start a tradition of “paying it forward” spanning over 20 years now.

But sometimes, many times I think, like in the stories I shared here, a kindness can return to its source ten-fold. To the point of saving a life.

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