Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shopper's Rage vs. Random Acts of Kindness

Some days I hate doing errands. Between shopping for my own family and running errands for my mother, who no longer drives, I’m always running somewhere for someone and it’s usually at the end of a hectic day. I’m tired, cranky, and putting another charge on the credit card with a balance that looms like a gaseous cloud from Mt. St Helens. I don’t always feel like smiling. I’d rather zoom in and out of the store without making eye contact with anyone. But I’m making a conscious effort to be the person who smiles, even when the checkout girl is rude, or the undisciplined toddler who shouldn’t be driving a shopping cart runs up my heels.

Both of my daughters worked in the food service industry as teens. They tell me that 90% of customers are mean, rude, or entitled. I don’t want to be counted among them.

Living in a tourist town, it’s hard not to get a little crazy when thousands of “extra people” descend, and running out for a gallon of milk turns from a five-minute errand to a twenty-five minute test of my patience. Recently, as traffic inched along on a blistering summer day, I stopped to let someone pull out into traffic and they started blowing me kisses. I laughed out loud. Kindness is like that. It’s catchy.                

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” –Eric Hoffer

What small act of kindness can make your day?


  1. Having a door opened for me by a stranger makes me feel like royalty.
    That kiss blower would have cracked me up, too.

  2. Ruth, I know exactly what you mean! We're not really a "tourist town", but being a small Victorian town on the Central Coast, we do get a LOT of summer visitors. We're 3 minutes from town ( actually, we're about 3 minutes from anywhere in this town ! ) and during the summer, it's more like 10-12 minutes. That kiss blower would have gotten some back from me!

    What makes my day is when my husband says, "You're busy writing, so how about I go to the market"..or post office..or whatever errand I would normally run. Or offers to cook dinner !

  3. I don't go to Starbucks that often and, when I do go, I only frequent the ones with drive-throughs. Since I often have two kids buckled into the back seat, drive-through Starbucks are the bomb. Anyway, occasionally when I do go, I will give the Starbucks person $5 and ask them to pay for the drink of the person behind me, and to keep the change. I've never seen the reaction because I always speed off, but it makes me happy to think that someone else maybe had a random, unexpected moment of delight, and all it cost me was $5. It's really a selfish act because it makes me feel good about myself in a way that is disproportionate to what I've done. But still -- occasionally I do it.

  4. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with errands. It depends a lot on what else I have going on, and how much money I have at the time. :) As much as I dislike shopping sometimes, I want to have a good witness when I go out. It's a good way to build character.

  5. Dawn, door openers are a rare breed, but they do still exist. I always find myself a little stunned when it happens.

    Oh, Mikki, does your husband actually offer to do those things? What a sweetheart! I would love that too!

    Jen, Yes, drive throughs are the best. What a very cool thing to do. I'll bet that act of generosity starts a chain reaction with car after car paying for the stranger behind them. Good for you! And it's so true - kindness benefits the person on the giving end as much as the person on the receiving end.

    Karen, I agree. If I have a wide open day with no pressures I can actually enjoy errands. But those days are few and far between.

  6. I just like when people are nice enough to smile and say hello. My daughter and I go for walks a lot and I hate when people turn away just to avoid saying hello. It's not hard to smile and say hi.

  7. So true... many people I pass by in the market will glare or look away when I smile at them like I'm crazy. But, there is something I noticed about smiling at people on the street: during the Christmas season, they usually smile back. Maybe it's the feeling in the air. Or maybe it's just because of the season.

    The things that make my day are when I'm visiting a relative in a small town and the local folk will engage you in friendly conversation. People in smaller more close-knit towns are so nice.

  8. Hi Ruth! I am a fellow campaigner and new follower. I write picture books, mostly, but am trying to branch out into MG/YA. What do you write?

    As for random acts of kindness, the other day I was in my local Stop & Shop, my arms overflowing with groceries because I was only getting a couple things (seems like I always say that and end up with a pile!) and a man passing by handed me his empty basket and said, "You look like you need this more than I do!" I said, "Are you sure you don't need it?" and he said, "I'll get another if I do." He gave me a little wave and went on his way and I thought to myself, what a nice person! It was a bright spot in the day :)

  9. Hi Ruth,
    I'm looking forward to getting to know you and everyone through the Campaign. :)

  10. Hi Ruth! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Unfortunately, Wordpress doesn't allow the Google Friend Connect, but you can follow me on Networked Blogs, with an RSS feed, in an ereader (like Google Reader), or by email.

  11. Hello from a fellow campaigner!

  12. Heyya Ruth! Fellow campaigner following you back. :-)

    One day (years ago)I was with the children in the grocery store. One of my kids, fell out of the grocery cart and was pouring blood. A great samaritan paid for my groceries and the grocer held them until I could get back to get them. He needed stitches, but I could not believe the kindess shown.

    Lovely to know you. Love your house. Beautiful. :-)

  13. I notice I put a comma (after kids) in the strangest of places. *sigh* Time for bed. :-)

  14. Ruth Thanks for stopping by my blog and your kind words about Foxy. I am looking forward to getting to know you better over the course of the platform-building campaign. I knew I liked you as soon as I saw your About Me profile. Just add coffee and you have me.

    As to random kindness. One day a the toll booth I saw someone trying to get over to the lane that wasn't exact change only. Everyone was cutting them off, so I slowed down and let him in front of me. When I got to the booth the toll lady told me to go on through, the gentleman paid my toll and said Thank you.

    Pamela Jo

  15. Small acts of kindness are so important to my survival. People can be so aggravating. Even just a simple smile will make my day.

  16. I like it when people let me into traffic. It's horrible, but sometimes it's hard. People see me merging or switching lanes with my turn signal, and they ignore me.

    I also live in a tourist town. It's not easy.

  17. Hello, fellow campaigner! I can totally relate to this - I, too, am working really hard not to be "that" customer, and to treat others with kindness because that is what I want to see more of in this world. I try to live by the saying: "Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." I guess the RAK that gets me the most would be when someone notices my hands are full of heavy grocery bags and holds the doors open for me.

  18. Kelly and Belle, I agree, a simple hello can be enough to make me smile.

    Susanna, I write a lot of YA short stories, but I am working on a YA novel right now, as well as revising a few PBs.
    Wow, I always go into the store for a few things and end up with heaps. What a lifesaver that man was. Definately a spirit-lifter. Thanks for sharing that story with me. ;)

    Hi Sheri =)

    Hi Brooke - I'll stop back and follow via email.

    Hi April =)

    Robyn, what a scary story. But what a thoughtful person to see to your groceries when they were obviously the last thing on your mind. Inspiring for sure!

    Pamela Jo, But for the coffee, we are kindred spirits! Nice to meet you. =) Love the tollbooth story. How thoughtful.

    Abby, I think a smile is the easiest and often most effective thing we can do.

    Medeia, Yes, traffic makes me very cranky. Sometimes it's hard to smile when you're just trying to stay sane. =)

  19. Howdy, fellow campaigner! Just swinging by to say hello. :-)

  20. Love it! It's amazing how quickly our moods can turn sometimes, huh?

    I'm a campaigner as well :)

  21. Hi from a fellow campaigner! I also live in a tourist town, so I totally understand.

  22. An open door or a smile very helpful. When my boy gets big enough to push a cart... I'll keep everyone's heels in mind. Of course, I'm usually the one doing that now. Sigh. Nice to meet you on the #writecampaign.

  23. You know what, a smile is enough for me. I often smile at people as I pass by and it's almost funny to see the confusion in their face as they wonder if they know me. Where I live is not a very smiley place, but I keep trying!

  24. You're right, it seems like the easier choice a lot of times to be rude but the thing is, returned or not, being kind does make me feel better all the time. And it's not like you have to work really hard to give just a bit of a smile.
    Belfast is a really friendly town, and after an eye contact and a smile people tend to talk as well, which was really strange for me when I moved here but it does make you feel like you're not invisible. You're alive.
    - andrea

  25. Crystal - I hear ya. Another vote for door openers ;)

    Thanks for dropping by Jillybean, Shelly, Brittany, Stacy, and Sarah!

    Andrea - Our area is not known for being friendly either. It's quite normal for people to look away when passing on the sidewalk. Glad you are enjoying the difference in Belfast!

  26. Ruth, I can so relate to your story. My son drives with, "angry issues", and he has no patience with drivers. The other day I calmy asked him to take a deep breath and allow another driver to merge. She waved and smiled and I saw a small grin on his face. It was a small victory for kindness. I am looking forward to the campaign. Just converted my blog from Blogger to Wordpress so I haven't added the bells and whistles. Much to learn I have.

  27. How lovely. We should all make a pledge to blow kisses at all and sundry who are being kind and then there'll be smiles on everyone's faces. Seriously though I know how hard it is when you're having to shop for many people.

    We're in the same Campaign group so I hope to get to know you better soon.

  28. Ruth,

    Hello from a fellow campaigner! Thanks for stopping by my website

  29. Ardith, I love your story: the smile on your son's face, the small victory for kindness! =)

    Rosalind, I supposed too many blown kisses could backfire. My daughter simply smiled at a little girl while she was at work yesterday and the girl looked at her and said "You creep me out." Yikes! You just never know how people will respond to you.

    Hello, Ken, thanks for stopping by.

  30. I'm following you back from the Cherry Tree Shade. You've got a great blog! See you around the Campaign

  31. Holding a door or helping me when I have my hands full makes my day.

    Here are two more things that I love:
    Eye Contact - that little thing is the BIGGEST way to connect with another human being. It is a sign of respect and way to show that the other person is worthy.

    By Name - Addressing a person by their name in conversation or by email.

    BTW, I'm in the Campaign. Here are my blogs:
    1st Writes - Christian Writers

    The Write Soil

  32. I live in a tourist town, too! I was just telling my hubby today how when people are driving crazy and they have an out-of-state/town tag I'm way more forgiving and accommodating. I let them change lanes, etc. ‎Partly because old southern towns can be very confusing with poor signage. I, also, readily give out directions when I'm walking around. I am over friendly with waiters since I did that job for so long. People can be just plain mean.

  33. Hi Dawn, I have trouble using someones name, I don't know why, because I do like it when people use mine. I will have to make a special effort to overcome the awkwardness I feel when doing it myself. When my daughters worked in the fast food industry, they were required to wear nametags and it totally creeped them out when strangers used their names. I guess you never know how you will be interpreted!

    Junebug, you're very kindhearted to be more accommodating to the tourist. It can be so easy to give in to an anti-tourist attitude.

  34. What a great reminder that kindness is wonderful (especially in a tourist town). Blowing kisses for someone letting you in on the highway is so fun! I can see why that made you smile. People being nice and helpful can really make my day, and a smile is an extra bonus. It's so rare these days.

    I'm trying to be the person that smiles too. It's not always easy, but when you get a smile in return, it's worth it!