Random Acts of Kindness
By: Chloe Kemp
This year, Valentine’s Week was designated Random Acts of Kindness Week with a new assignment every day. Friday’s Random Act was giving away a bouquet of flowers. I decided to spread the joy by giving flowers to individuals rather than to one person. I went downtown for errands and took the flowers with me. First stop: the bank. The teller asked if someone had given me the flowers. I told her about the Random Acts of Kindness Week and presented her with a flower. She loved it and said that she would check online to learn more about the organization sponsoring this challenge. The man next in line said, “You know, we should be doing random acts of kindness every day.” I agree whole-heartedly and try to do just that. What helped that week was my mindful and meaningful attention to following the assignments.
I left the bank, eyes and energy open to see who was next to receive a flower. I ran into Happy, one of the sweet people I interviewed and photographed for the Living on the Edge art project. He had lost a lot of weight. I asked him how he was doing and he told me that his cancer has come back. I didn’t know he had cancer, since he never mentioned it. Earlier that day Happy was told that the cancer has spread all over his body. As tears welled up in my eyes, he talked softly about the long life he has lived (he is only 64), and said that he is okay with going as long as his family is cared for.
This man has lived a very difficult life, yet there was no bitterness or disappointment in his tone or words. He mentioned that he was finally going to receive his Social Security disability payments in a few weeks. I asked what happened because last year when he had heart problems, Happy was told that he would receive the benefits. He said there had been something missing in the paperwork, bumping his case to finalization until now.
Now, when he has so little time? No frustration or bitterness from Happy, though, who is thankful and glad that his disability benefits will be here soon.
I am sad that I did not realize that Happy was still struggling this past year with serious health problems and no benefits. I am sad that he was exposed to Agent Orange when he was in the military and that his body is now riddled with cancer. I am sad that people like Happy are ignored every day. I am sad that I cannot single-handedly change the way the world works.
Happy is an example to all of us. He lives in the present, grateful for everything that comes his way. He doesn’t dwell on what he doesn’t have; he does not wallow in his misfortunes. As I talked to Happy, everyone passing by ignored him. All he asks, “Would you be willing to help out a Vietnam veteran?” As people kept ignoring Happy, it was all I could do not to blurt out, “For God’s sake, he just found out that his cancer is now all over his body, and it is going to be weeks until he finally starts receiving his disability benefits. Brother, sister, can’t you spare a dime? Can’t you spare a smile? Can’t you spare some love?”
Where are we in our society when we become numb to others? Why is it so easy to walk by, pretending that you don’t see someone in need? Obliviousness to the pain and suffering of others is not the answer.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please join me in making a commitment to help Happy and others like him. Begin by watching and then passing this video on to everyone you know: Living on the Edge-Homeless in America—www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxZIUi1zykg
Then brainstorm on what you can do to make a difference. Be a part of the solution. Anyone who wants to do something personally for Happy and his family, please contact me directly.
This brings us back to the beginning of my story about the Random Acts of Kindness Week. I did not have cash with me, so I gave Happy the remaining flowers and asked him to take them home to his wife. I leaned over to hug Happy. He kissed me gently on my cheek; then, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “It’s going to be okay. We all die. This is only a playground.”
Chloe Kemp uses her love of writing, photography and art to bring awareness and a voice to causes that touch her deeply. She urges you to open your heart and treat all who cross your path with compassion, dignity and respect. Watch the video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxZIUi1zykg, visit her face book page, www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Living-on-the-Edge-Homeless-in-America-by-Chloe-Kemp/158578157585775, and join the conversation to find solutions to help those who are struggling and living on the edge.