Jan 29, 2014

The Best Things In Life Are Free…

I wish I could sit home with my dog curled up in my lap and get paid to write whatever brilliant thought creeps into my head.  However, this is not the case.  I write for myself, as it is my passion; however, I also write to make a living.  Part of that “living” is being the Delaware Valley Reporter for a legal magazine.  So, in my daily travels for my full-time job, I found myself in Norristown, a city I frequent three times a week.  I always try and park as close to the courthouse entrance as possible; in hopes of having a short walk, so I can view my cases, and hit the road home.  There are three spots next to the courthouse that I frequently park at.  They take quarters at the “old school” meters, not the credit card, app scanning types that litter the rest of the block.  These particular spots are not only adjacent to the courthouse, but also directly in front of a church, that doubles as a soup kitchen every weekday at noon.

Usually, I am able to avoid the line of homeless people waiting out front of the church.  Today I was putting my car in park at precisely 11:50am and the line in front of the church was long; probably due to the very frigid temperature that failed to warm us past the teens.  It’s always humbling to look at the line; men, women, young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian; the depths of despair, when a person finds themselves without a job or a home or help, doesn’t discriminate.

People stand in line clutched to their loved one, a small child holding the hand of an adult or a person shaking, not just from the cold but from the grip of an addiction.  They wear layered, tattered clothing; some without coats.  Their shoes are mismatched, and I find myself wondering if one of them could be wearing something I tossed into a “Good Will” bag months prior.

Yet, I don’t allow myself to gawk and think too long about this.  We, as people, don’t allow ourselves to look too long.  It’s sad and reminds us of the struggles in the world, in our own communities.  It’s something we like to forget.  I turned my car off, grabbed my briefcase and walked the opposite direction toward the parking meter to drop in some quarters.   

As my boot hit the brick pavement, I slipped forward.  Not falling, but just gliding, without control and only a hope I wouldn’t land face first.  Then suddenly, I was steadied by an arm that reached out and stopped me from sliding.  The arm belonged to a man, that looked like Santa Claus’s emaciated brother.  Same long white beard, same jolly smile, same sweet eyes.  The only difference was the size.

          “Are you alright little lady?” The man asked.
          “Yes, thank you very much.”  I frantically replied.  As I steadied myself I noticed his clothes.  Tattered and mismatched, some of the teeth missing in his smile.  He was walking to the end of the line for the soup kitchen.
          “You better be careful, it’s bitter cold and very icy out here.”  The man said.
          “Yes, thank you.”  I took my wallet out to offer him a couple dollars.  A small token, to thank him, for saving me from falling on the ice.  As I was reaching into my wallet, the man gently placed his hand on my forearm.
          “You don’t have to do that, little lady, kindness is free.”  With that, Skinny Santa walked off toward the soup kitchen line.

I stood there for a moment stunned.  His words playing over in my head, “Kindness is free.”

So often we forget the little things in life. The sayings and truths that provide us with perspective and slap us back into reality.  The things we learned in Kindergarten… as adults, seem trivial, but in reality are pivotal.
I truly believe that God can send us messages, often through the form of experiences and in the vessel of a guardian angel.  We just have to have the wherewithal to recognize them.  This Skinny Santa, was delivering a message to me; maybe to reflect or maybe just to write this blog.  Either way it was a powerful reminder.

Ironically, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately; relationships with parents, siblings, significant others and friends.  All of these relationships require work.  Sometimes you’re the one griping, sometimes you’re the bent ear.  We take turns; it’s an ebb and flow.  And sometimes when the balance is off, we have to regroup, speak kindly and get back on the same page.

Regardless of the type of relationship, they could all benefit from a reminder that “Kindness is Free.”  When we need to communicate to one another, do it kindly. When we act toward one another, do it kindly.

In 2014 we get too wrapped up in “things.”  Using gifts to show someone appreciation and love for a birthday or anniversary.  We do it all the time. “What did he get you? What did she get you?”  It’s a sad equivalent that the more extravagant the gift, the more they care for you.  Birthdays should be at fancy restaurants and Christmas should be a showering of gifts.  It’s part of our society.  We are blinded by the ideology of affluence.

We don’t need to fix a hole in a t-shirt; we’ll just buy another one.  We don’t have to invest too much money into an old vehicle; we will get a newer model.  We have grown comfortable with the idea that we don’t have to fix, mend, or work on anything. The world is full of “stuff” and we can get a newer or difference version.  This is the mentality with our ever changing technology.  Trade your phone in every 2 years, sell your computer or tablet back for a newer version.

But, this cannot be the mentality for how we view relationships.  We don’t throw people away.  We don’t trade them in for a new model, we don’t forget about the old.  Instead we need to remember to hold onto people.  To cherish the people who have made a special mark in our life.

We forget that the most appreciated actions are not those bought in a store, but those done with a kind heart.  The most cherished relationships are not those that we newly develop, but those that we have worked on and worked out and cherished for many years.  So be kind, for kindness is contagious. 

When you hold the door for a stranger, they will most likely be prompted to smile and say “Thank you.”  It’s a domino effect.  And why not partake? Kindness is Free ya know?  And maybe we all need a little reminder of that.  Random acts of kindness… Priceless! 


"The art of being kind is all the world needs." -Ella Wheele Wilcox