Sunday, October 13th, is my dad’s birthday. He lives in Panama and we’re in Texas, so sending gifts isn’t always easy or affordable. Those who know my dad have undoubtedly experienced his kind generosity in one way or another. My dad has done anything from helping resolve some technical/computer issue, to purchasing items for someone or some organization in need, to volunteering to teach English lessons, visiting the sick in the hospital, and much, much more.
Because it’s difficult to even know what gift to send my dad, much less attempt to get it there, the kids and I thought a great way to honor him on his birthday would be to act like him for a day. We didn’t do anything life-changing, didn’t donate a kidney or save a kitten from a burning building. But I hope that what we did do made a few people’s day a little brighter, and I hope they return the favor to someone else one day. The people we chose today were not needy, at least not in a way that we were aware of. They didn’t look hungry, or sick, or even as if they were poor or homeless. We chose to do something very small for five ordinary people and I tell you, we had an extraordinary time doing it.
Our first stop was the Five Below store, where nothing in the store costs more than $5.00. We love this store! We pushed our basket around until we spotted a young teen that appeared to be struggling with whether or not to purchase a set of headphones. He would pick up the box, read the label, turn it around and look at the back, then replace it on the shelf. He sat pondering a potential purchase for almost 15 minutes, several times walking away to browse another aisle, but always coming back to these headphones. We knew we had our first victim of a random act of kindness.
Next we spotted an adorable young boy, probably around 10 or 11 years old. His bright red hair and freckles reminded me of my dad when he was younger. He was digging through a pile of Minecraft posters, clutching one particular poster as he searched. I approached the young boy and asked him if he was a Minecraft fan. His face literally lit up as he grinned from ear to ear. “Yes, I love MInecraft!” he said. I told him my youngest son was also a huge fan and asked which poster he liked the best. He reached out and showed me the one he had been holding and said, “This is the one I like.” He seemed so excited that someone shared his passion. I smiled at him. “Good choice,” I said. “I think I’ll get that one too.” He smiled, pleased that I’d selected the poster he liked. I thanked him for his help and turned to see my children eagerly waiting for me.
The kids and I took our purchases to the counter and asked the cashier to deliver them for us once we had left. We included a small note that Lindsay had written and left the store. The young red headed boy came out shortly after we left. He was searching the parking lot with a huge grin on his face. His steps were quick and light and he raced to the store next door where, we assumed, his mother was probably there shopping. The look on his face melted our hearts and was truly a blessing to all of us.
Next we headed to Walmart. We witnessed an elderly couple slowly emerging from their car that was parked in a handicapped spot. Their movement was rigid and stiff as they made their way towards the store. They neither smiled, nor spoke as they passed us, but we glanced at each other and knew they were next. We had a small ceramic planter we’d purchased on clearance inside, full of several kinds of cactus and small rocks. It was nothing special, but nice enough to enjoy on a windowsill or other small space. We attached a note to it and left it sitting on the ground next to the driver’s door. Hopefully they saw it and didn’t trip over it when they returned from their shopping!
Our last small act of kindness was the simplest gesture of all. We placed a dollar bill in a soda machine and secured a kind note. We had not even made it to our car when a woman saw the note and took the dollar bill. We laughed because our intention was for someone to enjoy a soda from the machine. Maybe she wasn’t thirsty or didn’t like the selection, or maybe she had something else in mind to spend the dollar on. Either way, we hope she took some time to ponder why anyone would bother to leave a dollar bill for a complete stranger. I suppose it’s possible she didn’t care who left it or why. After all, she left the note on the machine, not seeming too interested in the sentiment but instead relishing in the fact that she had a free dollar bill. The whole point is that you just never know. God tell us in Hebrews 13:2,
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot the car in front of us stopped for a pedestrian. An unattended shopping cart appeared in our vision, slowly made it’s way over the curb in front of the store, and into the parking lot. The Honda Hybrid was directly in its path and I knew it was just about to crash into it. I wish I’d had two more seconds to think and I would have honked at the Honda, but I just gasped in horror as I watched the cart slam into the shiny black car. Still in Random Act of Kindness mode, Lindsay wasted no time rushing from our car and moving the shopping cart back out of the way. An elderly woman emerged from the car and covered her eyes. “I can’t look,” she said. “Did it dent my car?” “Yes,” Lindsay replied. “I’m really sorry.” “G—D—-!” the lady shouted before uncovering her eyes and looking at Lindsay. Her horrified face faded into a smile as she realized she just been the victim of not only a random act of unavoidable bad luck, but also human kindness. “Thank you so much for helping me,” she said. “Of course,” said Lindsay. “I hope your day is better!”
She smiled at Lindsay and we drove off, chattering non-stop about the events of the afternoon. All said and done we only spent $12, but the feeling of having helped total strangers was worth much more. So thank you, dad, for all you have done and all that you do. Your random acts of kindness towards me have so positively affected my life. But the random acts of kindness that I’ve witnessed you display towards others means so much more. Because of you, today we “paid it forward,” and hope the five lives we gently touched will ripple kindness onward, combining with yours to become giant waves that eventually reach eternity.
Happy birthday, dad!!