I hate that I feel like a simple act of compassion is now considered a random act of kindness in our society rather than a typical response upon seeing someone in distress. But that notion was reinforced just this afternoon while I was at work.
I man the front desk of the tutoring center at the local community college. This afternoon, a student came in and sat down in front of me. The way he sank into the chair was my first clue that something was wrong. Then he looked at me with reddened eyes and fought to control the trembling in his lip as he apologetically canceled his appointment for later in the day because “stuff” was going on at home that he needed to take care of. Watching his struggle to keep his composure was torture for me, because I adhere strictly to a no one cries alone policy. Being separated by the desk, I was unable to act on my first instinct to lay a hand on his shoulder (or *gasp* give him a hug). So, blinking furiously and hoping that my voice wouldn’t crack, I did the second thing that came to mind–I asked, “Is there anything we can do?” Of all the things I could have said, this was obviously the last thing he expected to hear; the shock in his eyes was unmistakable.
Why? Why is an offer of compassionate assistance, even from a virtual stranger, so unexpected? What happened to “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” and “do unto others as you would have done unto you”? When did a simple act of human decency become the exception rather than the rule?
I didn’t really expect for the student to answer yes to my question. If he had, I would have certainly done everything in my power to meet his request. But even being 99.9 percent sure he’d say no, it would have been cold and inconsiderate and totally beyond me not to offer aid.
I don’t know if hearing that someone cared helped the student at all. I only know that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight if I hadn’t reached out. I’ll still be worried whether he’s okay as I drift off later, but at least I won’t lie awake regretting that I missed an opportunity to show a little kindness.
In an attempt to overwrite all the negative feelings I have about April, I have made a pledge to complete 26 random acts of kindness this month. Reporting on these acts is the theme of my participation in this year’s April A to Z Challenge. If what you read here inspires you to commit your own RAoKs this month, please share what you’ve done in the comments. Together, we can rewrite April’s legacy!
If you’d like to check out how some other bloggers are responding to the A to Z Challenge, click here. Beware, there are 2266 participants at the time of this posting…I accept no responsibility for the hours you are likely to lose once you start browsing! 🙂