Round RobinWhen Robin sent the topic through for this month’s Round Robin, I knew I wanted to participate. Random acts of kindness. What a perfect topic for this time of year. Sadly, I can’t say that I have done epic acts of kindness. I don’t even know what one would consider acts of kindness anymore. I do little things, many of them are just what I consider manners–holding the door open for others, letting people in on a busy street, giving a dollar to the local, street musician, etc.

If we include animals in the mix, then I do perform random acts of kindness frequently. A few weeks ago, we discovered five anise swallowtail caterpillars on our fennel. Our once majestic fennel plant has been decimated by batch after batch of these voracious eating machines. Honestly, I don’t mind. I like that our garden is becoming a little ecosystem, that we support local “wildlife”, even if they are insects. (Except cockroaches. I’m not into cockroaches. LOL) With the size of our fennel plant, these babies had no chance. So, we brought them inside, and I ran out and got some organic fennel from the local farmer’s market. I’ve been feeding them ever since. One is now in the chrysalis stage. Two, sadly, didn’t make it. (We will be burying them as Lily wants to give them a funeral.) The other two? I’m not sure if they will live, but I hope so.

I’ll save cellar spiders from showers (or my cats) as well as crickets and take them outside. These are things I do and don’t really think about it.

But I have many tales of people being kind to me, especially when I blew my knee out and I hopped around on crutches. Injuries sure give you a different perspective and an appreciation for what you have. After I blew my knee out, strangers would come up and offer to help me. They’d hold doors open, move chairs out of the way so I could get through the room, carry my groceries to my car for me… Most of them had blown out a knee and knew what it was like. It was a dark time right after it happened. I struggled with anger and depression. Their small kindnesses really helped me, and I am grateful to those kind souls.

As I write this, I realize that their acts of kindness inspired me to “pay it forward”. A few months ago, we went for ice cream. Inside the shop, a man on crutches had ordered two milkshakes. How he was planning to get those to the car, I don’t know, but the woman behind the counter offered to help him. I told her not to worry that I would do it. His clothes had seen better days, and the aura about him spoke of a hard life. We chatted a bit as we walked, him expressing his gratitude, me assuring him I was happy to help. A man sat behind the wheel of the car. I don’t know if he was disabled or not, but I know I had unkind thoughts about him. Now, I wonder if he struggled to walk, too. I guess I’ll never know, but I think I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The most recent act of kindess (that I remember) was something someone did for me. A few weeks ago, we went to see a reading of some short satires written by the mother of a friend of Lily’s. San Pedro is a bit of a schlep from Culver City (only because of traffic). As usual, we were running late (because trying to get a kid out of the house when you have to be somewhere at a specific time is like extracting ore from a mine… you practically need dynamite).

For those of you in the dark like I was about downtown San Pedro, it’s a hopping place on Saturday night. A live band played on one street corner, more food trucks lined the street than I’ve ever seen, and people packed the sidewalks. The theater was on the main drag, which meant no parking. I grumbled, dropped Lily off, and drove around the block where I found a free public parking lot with plenty of parking. It wasn’t that far of a walk, and, as busy as it was, I was okay being that far from the theater. I figured it’d still be busy when we returned to our car.

Except when we left at 10 pm, the streets were deserted, and the vibe was kind of creepy. With Lily at my side, we started back to the car. We turned the corner, and I glanced behind us. There was a man. Perhaps he had no ill-intent, but my thoughts and concerns centered around my daughter, and the energy coming off the guy wasn’t reassuring. As it happened, a man selling cakes I had passed on the way to the theater was just closing up shop. He greeted me like I was an old friend and said, “I knew you’d be back to get one.” His friendliness was contagious.

“I did see you earlier, but I didn’t have time to stop. They look delicious,” I said. “Unfortunately, I donated the last of my money to a little theater around the corner, or I’d buy a piece.”

This was true. I’d only come down with enough money to buy our tickets. I had a few coins in my purse, but that was it.

He turned to Lily and asked, “Which one would you like?”

“Any of them,” she said.

He grinned. “Now that’s gratitude. Don’t ever let go of that gratitude.” He looked at me and then back at her. “How about a piece of chocolate cake? Do you like chocolate cake?”

Her eyes widened, and she nodded. (Does Lily like chocolate cake? hahaha)

He handed her a container with a big piece in it. “And coffee cake for the mom.” He gave me another container, two forks, and some napkins.

“Thank you,” Lily and I said.

“My pleasure.” He handed me his card and we chatted for a bit before he said, “If you ever need a cake, give me a call.”

I smiled. Even though the cake looked fancy, I was skeptical if it would be any good. I shouldn’t have been. When we got to the car, Lily wanted to eat it right then. LOL I let her have a few bites (it was too late to eat the whole thing) and tried a bite myself. The man is a master at cake. If we lived closer, I’d order cake from him. Matter of fact, I’d recommend him to everyone. So, if you’re ever in San Pedro, look up Gerald Thompson and Sucker for Cake.

More importantly, his small kindness brightened that evening. I’ll admit to being grumpy the entire evening. I didn’t want to drive to San Pedro on a Saturday night. We spent an hour in traffic only to find a packed place with no parking. I did it for Lily and to support her friend’s mom because I know how hard it is to get people to come see your plays. His kindness washed all of that away. Only later did I realize that his act of kindness may have been motivated by the creepy guy who’d followed us around the corner. By interacting with us, we stopped, the creepy guy walked by, and we were safe.

Could I be wrong about that creepy guy and Gerald’s motivation? Sure, but when we turned the corner for the street to the parking lot, that dude was 150-200 yards ahead of us, way past the parking lot. Unless that guy was walking in circles…

So, yeah, acts of kindness. I think they change lives. Sometimes, they save them. I know they always end up with one, if not all, of the people involved happier.

Perhaps this post will inspire you to do a random act of kindness. I know it has me. I’ll be on the lookout for how I can be kind to someone… whether a family member or a stranger.

And please share your stories. Just talking about Gerald has put a smile on my face.

For more random acts of kindness stories, please stop by these blogs: