Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are We Really That Disconnected?

Some of you may remember last year when I conducted a little social experiment. Actually, it wasn't meant to be an experiment, it was only meant to be a random act of kindness but because it took so long to be taken it kind of turned into that.

Well the Christmas season is upon us again and while I do commit random acts of kindness through the year I tend to do them more at this time of year. I think sometimes, people need it more at this time of year. People are more stressed and harried around the holidays. Suicide rates jump, depression spikes....

A few weeks ago I picked up a few $5 Tim Horton's cards, printed out some notes about receiving a random act of kindness and passing the love on, etc and put them into envelopes in my purse. When the opportunity has presented itself (a public place with no one around) I've been leaving the envelopes to be found.

This morning I left my last envelope in a shopping cart in WalMart. The envelope was decorated with Christmas stickers and said OPEN ME on it. A few minutes after I left it there I saw a women walk past me with the cart. She was my age, maybe a bit younger, with two young children in the cart. The envelope was still there untouched. She could see it, no doubt but I guess had chosen to not open it. I tried to keep an eye on her to see if she would open it or put it in her purse but she had a scowl on her face and made a beeline to the clothing section so I lost her and didn't see her again. So, I really don't know if she opened the envelope or if she left and and someone else got it. Judging by the look on her face she probably could have used the cheering up.

I got to thinking though, why didn't she open it right then? Was she afraid it belonged to someone else? It was just sitting in the basket of the cart, the cart was in the area with all the other carts. There was nothing else in the cart (no old flyers or bags or anything) so it didn't get mixed with garbage. Maybe I'm on my own in this but if I saw an envelope that said OPEN ME with Christmas stickers, I'd open it, just out of curiosity sake and if need be, if it looked like something someone lost I'd turn it into customer service (much like finding a wallet) But if I'd opened that envelope I'd have seen it was for me.

I'm sure there is someone out there who is as nosey as me who will open it and will hopefully get a smile from it.

Last night I was watching the news and this story was on.  The reporter was at the scene and was stopping people and asking them had they seen it happening would they have called the police. Make note of that, she didn't ask if they'd step in to stop it, just if they'd call the police. I was astounded at how many people said no. NO! Can you believe that??

I get not getting in the middle of it to stop it. Once, many years ago when Sean and I first started dating we were out for a walk and a guy and girl were having a screaming match at a gas station. Sean was concerned for the girl and being from an insanely small town and not really grasping big city dynamics he wanted to go and assist her. I quite literally had to hold him back and explain why that wasn't a safe idea but that we would call the police, which we did.  But for all those people to say the wouldn't even call the cops?

Is that what our world is coming to? People are so self absorbed now that they turn a blind eye to both crime and good deeds? Is it that shocking to think someone might just want to do some good for the sake of doing good? Or that someone would do what's right and help someone in need?

Was I brought up differently  than other people? I don't think so.

I didn't grow up 'priveleged'. Our family struggled financially for most of my young life. Despite that, my brothers and I never went without. We had food, clothes, toys, a roof over our heads. We might of whined and complained that we didn't have the latest gadgets (like Commodore 64) or the coolest clothes (like Johnny G jeans) but we also lived in a neighbourhood where we saw a lot of families who had a hell of a lot less than we did.

One particular year a family moved in next door to us; a single mom and her three very young daughters. That Christmas my mom organized a drive among the neighbours; all families who had financial hardships just like ours, to collect toys, clothes and food for this young family so that those three little girls would have a Christmas. Because otherwise, they wouldn't have.

I got to go with my mom to the neighbours house to drop off the box to them and I'll never forget the Mom crying and thanking my mom and I'll never forget one of the little girls squealing because there was a baby doll in the box for her.

Why is it that those who have the least to give, give the most?

It sounds hypocritical of me. I spent upwards of $300 per child this Christmas and more on Sean. They're getting the latest gadgets and the brand names. Because I can. But, what I'm making sure is not lost on them is that they are lucky to have these things and that they are lucky to have the life they do. Because so many don't.  They know the story of our neighbourhood toy drive and for years we did one too (with my home daycare)  This year Mary stepped it up with selling her stuffed animals for toy drive money. I'm taking her shopping tonight. If we shop right, she can get a lot of toys to donate for $55 she got.  I'm proud of her and she's proud of herself.

It makes me sad to see stories like that one on the news. I must be a hopeless optimistic to think that the world is a better place than that. I'd like to think my little corner of it is. I believe in the goodness of people.

I challenge you all to commit a random act of kindness this holiday season. If you've ever been lucky enough to receive one, you know how they can really make a person's day. And the payoff is great because while I might not know if that lady with the two kids opened the envelope, I'm most certain someone did and I'll bet they smiled and felt good and that makes ME feel good. 

What more could a person ask for?

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