Choose to be Kind


Written by Leslie Criss

“I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” — J.R.R. Tolkein

Someone recently said to me that times like these seem to bring out the worst in people. And there is, sadly, some truth in that.

All one has to do for proof is read or watch the news. Who would ever have believed there would be so much anger and animosity over the wearing or not wearing of face masks? If you must, you may Google and find enough vitriolic tales to make you physically ill.

Still and yet, while uncertain times do bring out the worst in some, they also bring out the best in others. And that truth, my friends, is where my hope hovers. There are awe-inspiring examples of people who opt for doing good and being kind. Ironically, sometimes we have to broaden our searches for the life-affirming stories.

I stumbled upon this one by accident several weeks ago, and it’s not a story I’ll soon forget.

Jake Bland is a guy in Louisville, Kentucky, who is operations manager at Hometown Hauling, a trash collection company. He also rides on the truck and picks up folks’ garbage.

When he realized a customer — a 90-year-old woman — had not put her trash out for several days, Bland asked the company’s dispatcher to call and check on her. The reason she’d had no trash is that she’d had no food — for about 10 days. A user of public transportation, the woman — Mrs. W. — was fearful of leaving her home and being exposed to COVID-19. She has no family to call on for help.

The dispatcher told Mrs. W. to make a grocery list which Bland picked up after his shift on the truck. He went shopping and delivered the groceries — paid for by Hometown Hauling — to his customer.

Bland has pledged to check in on Mrs. W. every week. The kindness of two people likely saved her life.

A few weeks ago on a Saturday, I sat in my car and prepared myself — physically and mentally — to enter Walmart with a long grocery list. Gloves? Check. Mask? Check. List? Check. Patience? Time would tell.

All manner of people shopped. Masked and unmasked. Gloved and ungloved. Social distancers and those who crept too close for comfort. Some realized the aisles were now one-way and shopped accordingly; others, not so much.

I ticked off the items on my list as quickly as possible and pulled my cart in behind a woman who was about to leave the store.

Just before I began placing my groceries on the conveyor, I noticed a young man behind me — no mask, no gloves, but honoring the distance between us. He held only two items in his hands.

“Go in front of me,” I muttered behind my mask.

“No, ma’am. That’s OK,” he said.

“Please. You have two things; my cart is full. Please, go ahead,” I said.

He thanked me and moved to the cashier. I unloaded my cart, and when I looked up, he was gone.

The cashier bagged my groceries and I carted the bags. I’d already put my debit card in the machine and grabbed a glance every now and again as my total rose. When the cashier finished with my groceries, she asked me to remove my card and insert it once more. I did, and my total dropped to half of what it had been.

The young man who checked out in front of me had given her cash and told her to put it on my groceries. I was stunned, and I struggled not to burst into tears. Happy tears inspired by the unexpected kindness of a stranger.

I was not in need of financial help, but I was badly in need of a bit of blue sky and a little benevolence. Because one act of kindness deserves another, I plan to pay it forward.

Whether one person’s actions save a life or simply elicit a smile or warm a heart, courtesy is critical in these chaotic and confusing times.

So, please, no matter the situation, choose to be kind. It can make such a difference.

Oxford, Mississippi | United States

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