Stepping back, taking a breath

With all of the happiness in our lives these days, there are also never-ending feelings of constant motion, added stress, lack of control.  Usually it’s okay.  Sometimes it’s not.  But whatever it is, it’s life these days, and we make of it what we can. 

A few weeks ago James and I went out for an evening stroll – our summer routine of a quick half hour or so walk around the neighborhood that ultimately brings us to the parking lot where we find Dad each night.  The ritual serves as a way for me to wind down after a day at work and a way for James to catch a quick snooze before he plays away the evening with Dad. 

Anyway, on that particular evening, after a long week at work, I really needed the walk.  The details are unnecessary, but recently I have struggled more than usual with the notion of working at an organization that boasts about its mission to help women, while at the same time forgets the value of practicing simple kindness to each other on a daily basis.  Morale stinks.  People aren’t nice.  It’s a competitive environment in which people put each other down in order to save their own face.  It’s unfortunate.  But it pays the bills, gives us health insurance, is a job. And, perhaps most importantly, I have hope that it won’t always be this way – there are enough people who want it to be different.  And, truth be told, it’s a pretty awesome organization if you get beyond the day-to-day malarkey.

Back to the walk though.  Lost in thought, I rounded a corner past a house that is under construction. The sidewalk was closed on account of the construction, so James and I crept into the road to make our way around a workman standing on a ladder. We waited for traffic to break to allow for safe passage, but given that it was rush hour on a busy street, that break did not come. So we stood. I felt sad…lonely even…a lady with a baby carriage stuck behind a workman on a ladder, just waiting for a safe time to continue her walk with her baby.

And then it happened.

A man in a utility van coming from the opposite side of the road (behind me) stuck his hand out his window, laid on his horn, and pulled in front of on-coming traffic.  He did not do this to be unsafe (nor did he do it in an unsafe way) – he did it to help. He did it because he was the only one who could free his mind from its hurried state to consider the lady with the baby carriage. The driver he stopped, now freed from her own hurried state, rolled down her window to apologize to me for stopping so suddenly.  I smiled at her, passed, climbed back on the sidewalk, and continued on my way.  And then I cried a little bit at how touched I felt by a simple act of kindness at just the right moment.  A moment in which I was lost in thought, feeling a bit disenchanted, slightly disappointed by the world. 

And what happened?

A kind soul in a big white utility truck opened his heart to a simple act of kindness, and in that moment, reminded me the power of simple acts of kindness, committed for no other reason than because they are the right thing to do. 

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