"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, November 28, 2014

I'm all a-sparkle

I believe I met August McLaughlin on Facebook and immediately thought she was equal parts charming and driven. (Imagine my surprise when, after months of stalking her through her FB posts, she said she'd been stalking me the same way!)  I followed her exploits with great interest - here was a woman who didn't just want to change HER world, she wanted the change THE world.

I'm a sucker for that kind of thinking. When she invited me to be a part of #SparkleFriday, I couldn't resist.

"Let's make Black Friday shine! In lieu of a conventional housewarming party, we're having an act-of-kindness celebration.

Between now and 11/28, conduct an act of kindness. Then on the 28th, share a description and/or a photo on Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter using the hashtag #SparkleFriday. (Writers, feel free to post yours on your blog!)"

Here I am, sparkling.

She gave us about a month to do our good deeds. I thought, well, I should be able to do something nice for someone within 30 days. I signed up and went on with my life, and started to notice things.

The first thing that caught my attention was at the ranch. One of the things I do regularly is put away equipment, sweep out the feed room, refill the fly spray bottle, and generally do what might be considered ranch-style housekeeping. I don't have to do any of these things. They're not in my jurisdiction - most of them are my horse trainer's tasks. But I see how busy she is working horses, so I do it for her to make her life a little easier.

Then there was Bouchercon. One of the members of the OC Sisters in Crime is legally blind. She wanted to go to the mystery convention, but needed a ride. I live in Placentia, the convention was in Long Beach, and she lives in Fountain Valley. Figuring it was half-way between the two points, I volunteered to take her. I could have seen if someone else in the area could do it, could have stayed silent when she spoke of wanting to go, could have done things a lot of different ways that didn't inconvenience me. But I like her company and didn't mind the detour to her house and wanted her to be able to go.

Two weeks ago, one of my horseback riding students spoke with me about a project for school. She has to do 10 hours of volunteer service before the end of January. She is interested in a career with horses, and wanted to know if she could do volunteer work at the ranch. I said yes, even though it meant we would have to coordinate our schedules and I might have to extend my hours a little in order to supervise her. But I want to encourage anyone who wants to work with horses, and she is such a nice girl that I like helping her.

Last week, my trainer and I were at Corner Bakery for lunch. I got my cup and went to the drink area to get iced tea. A young girl stood with her two water cups, sort of in line and sort of not. When the person at the machine moved away, the girl stepped back and looked at me. I motioned for her to go first. She seemed surprised. I suppose I could have gone ahead of her, but she was there before me and was being so patient. What did I have to lose by being nice to her, except a little time?

This week, I was in the grocery store, buying food for Thanksgiving dinner. It's taken me years, but I've finally discovered a recipe for sweet potatoes that is yummy. It calls for fresh yams, not canned, so I was in the produce section, picking out a few with the right size. A woman stopped by the area and began to ask me about them. How do I cook them? What's the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? I explained about the difference and told her about the recipe. It took several minutes, because one question led to another. I was kind of on a schedule. Had lots of stuff left to do, and was under no obligation to educate a stranger. But she was asking for help and I had information that would help her. Why wouldn't I share it?
So it would seem that I conduct acts of kindness quite often. I just don't notice them. As a matter of fact, I may be a serial kindness-performer. I didn't take photos of any of these events, probably because I was too busy doing them.

What I do want to do is thank August for making me realize that, even on days when I am ranting at traffic or crowds, or railing at the sheer stupidity of sections of the human race, underneath it all I am capable of being a nice person. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we can choose to be good - and that it's really not that hard.


August McLaughlin said...

Thank YOU, Gayle! This is such an insightful post! I'm so glad this event led you to recognize your serial kindness habits, and ever grateful that we stalked each other. LOL Raising a cup o' kindness to you!

Anonymous said...

I just love this post, Gayle! And you're right. In the day-to-day stressful and hectic times we tend to overlook the small acts of kindness we ourselves are performing.
August's idea is a small reminder to watch us and be aware of what we're doing. :-)

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