Looking back on small acts of great kindness

 
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Photo by Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

The world is often a harsh place. Pain, injustice and poverty are persistent problems which many face, and that’s not even mentioning the everyday personal worries that one might have to deal with. It’s easy for a good day to turn into a horrible one due to a single piece of bad news or one small act snowballing into a large issue. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Despite all the issues we face, simple acts of kindness have the ability to radically transform how we feel, and show us the positives we may often miss. These small acts may come from anywhere or anyone, from the annoying younger brother to the elderly gentleman you pass on the way to work. The could take place in a parking lot or gas station, or at an important celebration—those showing kindness may be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or even atheist. No matter who is responsible, we can see the character of how we should act towards others in these stories of kindness. This article contains stories of kindness, courage and generosity. By their simplicity they prove that all it takes to do good is a heart that is open to the needs of others. Sometimes, it can be these seemingly random acts that end up having a profound effect on the different people you interact with.

Strangers on a plane

Landon’s first flight, to see his father, would not be an easy one. His mother, Alexa Bjornson could not accompany him. She knew her seven-year-old would be taken care of, as is the case with all minors travelling by plane unaccompanied, but, nonetheless, she was worried.

Landon has high-functioning autism and can have outbursts which may be disruptive for those around him, especially when he’s alone and afraid. His mother wrote a letter to the person who would sit next to him on the plane, to explain the situation. She added 10 dollars in the envelope, to compensate for the inevitable trouble.

Luckily, the person sitting next to Landon was Ben Pedraza, who turned the flight from Las Vegas to Portland into a pleasure. The two cracked jokes and played, so time flew by. They also took a picture together at the end which they sent to Alexa as proof that the flight was very pleasant for both of them. The photo was posted on social media by Alexa with the following message: “I am very grateful to this man, because there are still good people in this world trying to contribute with something, like I am too.”

Caring while cleaning up

For 88-year-old Opal Zucca, life is not as easy as it used to be. She suffers from dementia and has mobility difficulties, but she cannot stop doing chores around the house. One winter she slipped on ice as she was bringing her empty garbage bin back into the alley next to her house. Luckily, she met Billy Shelby, the driver of the garbage truck, who stayed with her until the ambulance arrived.

Since then, the two have been good friends, and Billy accompanies Opal to the door and carries her empty garbage bin. Surveillance cameras have recorded the affectionate and humorous interactions between the two, and Opal’s daughter posted a video of the two of them, out of gratitude for Billy. Tens of thousands of people appreciated his gesture, and it received attention on the news. “I run a garbage truck. Just this, right? But, even so, I can still become the best version of myself and this can make somebody’s day easier,” Billy says.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Eating alone

Sometimes all it takes is just one look around to discover how to make somebody’s day better. This is what Jamario Howard and his friends did. While they were waiting for their order at a restaurant, they noticed an elderly lady eating alone. Jamario imagined how bad he might have felt if he had to eat alone, so he went to the lady and asked her whether he could join her. After a few minutes of conversation, he found out she was a widow and that the next day she would have celebrated 60 years of marriage. He offered her his condolences and invited her to dinner with his friends, to the lady’s delight. At the end of the meal they took a photo, which went viral on social media.

“The idea is to always be kind and good to people. You never know what they’re going through,” says Jamario, whose encounter with the elderly lady changed his perspective on the way he should look at those around him.

Beauty, inside and out

Their world is viewed as superficial and artificial. Beauty pageants gather together women from around the world, who have indisputable exterior beauty. There are, however, few moments during the pageant that allow them to display their inner beauty as well. One of these moments occurred when the winner of Miss World was announced and the representative of Nigeria reacted, with a joy that was hard to hide, to the victory of her friend from Jamaica.

Although she came fifth, Nyekachi Douglas, Nigeria’s representative, screamed and jumped up and down with joy when the winner, Toni-Ann Singh, was announced. She embraced her with a joy that moved the hearts of thousands of people. The way in which she managed to rejoice was considered by people an example worth following when somebody else wins.

Cleaning with clients

Kind acts usually spurs on others. Ben, a young man and employee at a small waffle house, discovered this one night when he chose to continue to serve the clients even though he was the only one left and all the staff had gone home. Due to a mistake made in the shifts schedule, Ben was left alone at midnight with 30 clients. Although he chose not to close, you could see the despair in his eyes because there was no way he could deal with all the clients. He had to make the waffles and coffee, serve, and do the dishes.

A man from the restaurant went and talked to him for a bit, than grabbed an apron and started doing the dishes. At first, the clients thought he was one of Ben’s colleagues, but when they realized he was a client they went and offered their help as well. A lady in an elegant sequin dress, wearing high heels, started making coffee and cleaning tables. Another man joined in. At the end of the shift Ben had managed to serve all the clients. The story was written by one of the clients moved by the gesture of those who came to Ben’s aid. He added photos to it and the story was shared by thousands of people.

Empathy, even in anguish

The London terrorist attack at the end of 2019 left two victims dead, Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. Paradoxically, the two young people were militants for the rights of detainees and were fighting for their reintegration into society, and their attacker was a former prisoner accused of terrorism, released after serving half of his time. The situation was quickly used to fuel the wave of hatred against detainees and politicians who had carried out reforms in this field.

The reaction of their families was inspirational. They managed to overcome the pain of the loss and appeal to kindness. They knew that neither Saskia nor Jack would have wanted their deaths to be used as a pretext to destroy objectives they had worked for so they sent out categorical messages to politicians: “Do not use my son’s death – nor his photos and that of her colleague – to promote your pathetic propaganda! Jack fought against all the things you support: hatred, division, and ignorance,” Jack’s father told Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Jack “believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and was always on the side of the weak,” other members of the family said. They hope that the only thing people will remember is the way in which the two dreamed of saving the world.

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Cooking for the community

Kaza Manan is the owner of the Sakina Halal Grill restaurant, known not only by the business people who dine in this luxurious neighbourhood of Washington but also by the homeless people in the area. Manan’s story began in Pakistan and continued in America, where he arrived with just three dollars in his pocket. He worked as a limousine driver, then managed to open up a small restaurant. His brother was the cook and the quality of the food quickly increased their business. However, one of the things that had shocked him when he arrived in the US was the large number of homeless people. When he opened the restaurant he decided to do something for them.

Although he only received media attention last year, Manan has served 80,000 meals for free in his restaurant over the past five years. Many feared his business might suffer due to his faithful clients who could not afford to pay for the food, but up to now things have been going very well for him. His business has been blessed so he has no reason to stop. “I tell everyone: be honest and kind!” And all those who eat in his restaurant can confirm he follows his own advice.

Manan’s business did unfortunately experience a downturn during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading him to ask for help keeping it afloat during the difficult times. Thankfully this became another example of kind acts for strangers—Manan raised over $300,000 to keep this charitable business alive.

Parenting and Pythagoras

Math teachers deal with solving problems. Nathan Alexander is one of them. However, the problem he had to face and that made him famous is not connected to mathematics. During one of the classes he taught at Morehouse College, one of his students showed up with a five-month-old baby. He asked permission to join in the class with the baby and apologized explaining that his wife had to pick up some papers and they had no one with whom to leave their baby girl. Nathan was allowed to stay in the classroom, especially because finals were approaching, but everyone could see that the father could not focus at all on the class.

The teacher asked if he could hold the girl so his father could take notes more easily. He put on his student’s baby sling and continued to write on the board. The girl quickly fell asleep and that led to all kinds of jokes about the effect math has on people. The class continued, with the little girl sleeping peacefully. One of the students took a photo of Nathan, who became famous, especially among parents who know how important it is to receive help from time to time with all the responsibilities that come with a baby.

Clothing and Compassion

Michael Todd has been a victim of bullying for as long as he can remember. He was the laughing stock of his classmates in all the schools he went to, mainly because he would wear the same clothes every day. When he went to college, things did not change—first because of the tradition of making fun of freshmen, and then because everybody there also noticed that he was always wearing the same clothes.

Everything changed one Monday morning, when two classmates, Kristopher Graham and Antwain Garret called him in the hallway to apologize for laughing at him and to offer him something. The bag they gave him contained T-shirts, trousers, and shoes. Kristopher and Antwain had picked these out from among their own clothes. The gesture was filmed by a few colleagues who saw them in the hallway and all the school came to know about it. Soon the three were known across the whole country because they were on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. DeGeneres thanked them, saying they are “an example to all children, to all adults who should care for others.”

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Dedication to the craft

Andrew Garrido learned to play the piano on a paper piano. He was 11 years old when he asked his mother to send him to piano lessons. Because she did not have enough money, his mother had to refuse him, so Andrew went online and searched for the dimensions of a piano, drew the keyboard, and stuck the paper to his desk. He was using an online keyboard, and after pressing a key he would also touch it on his paper piano. Soon he no longer needed the online keyboard. He could already hear the right notes in his mind. After six months, when his mother noticed this was more than just a passing whim of his, she borrowed money and payed for 10 piano lessons. He graduated from grade 1 in just 8 hours, to the professor’s amazement.

After the ten lessons, his mother had no money to pay for more, so during the following years Andrew continued to use his paper piano. Luckily, four years later, he was allowed by the school director to practice on the piano in the festivities room. When his mother finally borrowed money to buy him a piano, there was nothing that could hold him back. Today, Andrew has a scholarship at one of the finest music schools in London and is an inspiration to all who know his story.

Adreea Irimia strongly believes that, beyond all our words, it is our actions that should have the final say. A version of this article first appeared on ST.Network and is republished here with permission.