Kindness of Strangers 11/21/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

An interesting thing happened to me early this morning. I got up a little bit late. Maybe it was only about ten minutes, but still early. Now, to be honest, I get to work typically before 7:30, and my first class is normally at 9, so I’m very early. I use this time to try (desperately) to wake up, and as my office hours because, frankly, nobody ever comes to my office hours anyway.

So, when I arrive, the parking lot is all but empty. Being a creature of habit, I tend to park in the same spot every day. It’s not a prime spot, but it’s protected. My passenger side and front are well protected, and it’s in the back of the parking lot so if somebody is having mobility problems, they can park closer. If you saw what I drive, you would think it odd that I try to protect it, but she’s reliable, and paid for, and despite the rust she doesn’t look that bad. She’s just a hard-working vehicle.

This morning, as I approached my usual parking space a little bit later than usual, I noticed a vehicle where I normally park. It’s really no big deal; I’m flexible and whoever got there, she arrived first so of course it was her choice. I assume the driver is a female of this car because, being a woman’s college, the odds of far higher that it’s a woman’s car than a man’s, but I could be wrong.

As I got closer, I noticed it. Whoever parked this car did not park in my spot, but rather, parked in the spot right next to it. It blew my mind. Apparently (again, a guess but a reasonable one) this person often parks next to me and recognizes that I park in that spot, and, although I have no idea who (s)he is, this (s)he seems to have saved my spot for me.

In the long run, it’s meaningless. A parking spot, with many other spots available and I very easily could have just parked next to this person, but how kind is it that (s)he let me park in my usual position? It might have been an act of kindness, or maybe it was too small to count as such, but at the very least it was kindness from a stranger. As small of a thing as this is, it really set the tone for my day. I recognized this (or at least believed it) as a kind and considerate act, and it started me off in a good mood. We don’t seem to have enough of that kind of altruism in the current political climate, and it just made my day.

Contract that to something that happened the first week I moved to South Dakota. In a parking lot, I parked quite a long way from the store one beautiful Saturday, again so anybody who has problems can park closer. Having made the necessary purchases, I was carrying my bags back to my car when somebody drove past me, rather excessively quickly and recklessly for a parking lot, when the passenger flipped a peach pit out of the window and landing, you guessed it, square on my hood. It wasn’t personal, as they couldn’t have known that was my car considering how far away I was, but still, it was just a thoughtless move and I happened to be the poor sap who had to take their slimy spit covered garbage off of my car. But consider, if you will, how I felt seeing that peach pit land on my car, versus how I felt seeing my regular parking spot open. Neither was a critical incident, but this beautiful Saturday, I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day, while on this gloomy, overcast and cold workday I was in a great mood, and the only difference between the two is a simple act of consideration.

There is a lot to be said for random acts of kindness, but it’s important to remember that simple acts of consideration can be so important as well. These acts aren’t even intentional actions to surprise somebody. Instead, it’s the recognition that we are not the only person in the world. It’s recognizing how we would feel if somebody left our spot open, or how we would feel if we found a peach pit on our vehicle. Besides, you never know whose day you will make just through what should be common courtesy.

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