The Kindness of Strangers

Today was turning out to be a stressful one for me and I was dreading my monotonous trip to the grocery store, as I always do. I felt on edge and tearful about a couple things and just didn’t want to go out in public. The fridge is empty though, so I had no choice. But as a delaying tactic on the way there, I stopped at a drive-thru to get a fish sandwich. The young girl who handed my food out the window actually made eye contact and smiled at me, which immediately and unexpectedly lifted my spirits. I ate the sandwich while watching some sparrows in a nearby shrub, and when my stomach was full I felt better about facing the grocery store. So I went in, planning to make a quick trip through for the bare minimum to get us through a few days.

Within the first two minutes a stranger stopped me and we had this exchange:

Him: Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Laura Bush?

Me: Yeah, all the time.

Him: Really? She’s a very attractive woman, by the way.

Me: Oh, how sweet, thank you.

Him: Really, you could almost double for her.

Me: (laughing) I’ve actually heard it a lot more in the past couple of weeks….

Him: Did you get a new hairstyle or something?

Me: Yes, I did!

Him: I’m sure that’s it.

I think it's the eyes....
I think it’s the crazy eyes….

LauraI’ve been hearing this comment off and on for more than a decade, since Mrs. Bush became nationally-known as the First Lady way back in 2000. I didn’t like it at first because I thought she had a sort of quirky-looking face. But then I realized that I have the same quirky-look about my face, so I totally see why people comment on it. (I really hate every picture ever taken of me, but I’m showing this so you can see what I’m talking about here. I’m not sure if the resemblance will come across in a still photo the same way it comes across in person, but here it is anyway.)

I just wish I had told that nice man how he’d made my day. I almost went back to do that, but I still felt sort of weepy and was afraid I’d burst into tears and make a fool of myself. Have you ever felt like crying when someone was nice to you? That’s how I felt right then. (Menopause is such a joy…)

Then on the way home I remembered what I’d posted on Facebook about a week ago: “The rudeness of people around here is astounding.” I generally try not to write depressing stuff like that on social media, but that particular day I really needed to get it off my chest.  It had been one of those days where other drivers were aggressive and rude, fellow shoppers let doors close in my face, and store clerks were not appreciative of my business.

These two incidents remind me of what a profound impact we all have on each other as we move about in the world. Even casual interactions can make someone’s day better or worse, can’t they? If you’re like me, you may be finding it harder to tolerate the increased rudeness in our society these days. Small kindnesses have become so unusual that they are much more appreciated. Imagine what the world would be like if we all tried to lift each other up in our daily interactions instead of just viewing everyone else as someone we have to “put up with” to get through our own day. We all have bad days when we don’t feel like being nice to strangers, including me. But that 30-second conversation today was a good reminder to me of just how much difference you can make in another person’s day, and it reaffirms my goal to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.