Anxious about your life, the planet, famine, war, pestilence and greed? My next door neighbor, a therapist, did a good deed when she taught me the latest anti-trauma simple exercise, proven to be effective instantly, reducing angst, tension, stress and foreboding. When apprehensive, merely look around craning your neck in all directions, especially behind you.
If you see me trying to reach my daily step goal by avoiding the heat, walking at breakneck speed around Lowe’s, my head swinging frantically join me. The looking around helps. Try it.
I am finding being calm under the present global circumstances challenging. Also, getting out of the way of yourself, doing for others and being grateful can lead to well-being and reduce anxiety.
Although giving money to causes is essential, I never think about my monthly bequest to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Good deeds have to be accomplished in the present for the happiness alchemy to be achieved.
I observed a benevolent act done by a stranger just this morning.
What a start to the day! A twelve-hour fast. Bloodletting.
In the laboratory were two phlebotomists. One made a mistake, the other scolded him within earshot of all the patients. The newer technician was doing his best. The mistake was benign merely causing a minute of extra internet aggravation. The patient before me, who also heard the fracas, declared to the scolded worker, so everyone could hear, “Thank you. I will be sure to request you next time. You did a great job. You were attentive and kind.” Her kind words could have long-lasting unexpected results.
There are hundreds of opportunities each day to do small acts of kindness. Throwing a rock in water doesn’t take much effort, sacrifice or time but the ripples under the right conditions go on forever.
Fifty-four years ago, a man walked down a hall with a few pieces of paper in hand, pulled some strings, asked someone for a favor, and altered the course of my life.
A small act of kindness
My childhood was troubled. I suffered in school and never graduated from high school, even though I had secret intellectual interests. Eventually, after most of my time was spent lazing around day and night watching television and chain smoking, I graduated from night school with a High School Equivalency Diploma (a precursor to the GED). After two years, I wound up at Morris Harvey College in Charleston, West Virginia. Everyone who applied was accepted. I lasted only a year. My life plan was to become a visual artist in Paris, France and have interesting friends and romances.
My mother would help if I at least applied to only one college of her choice. She chose New Paltz State Teachers College, a nice safe place which she believed was only for women students. In those days, all applicants were required to have an in-person interview.
The interview began with a question.
“Why do you want to attend New Paltz College?” he asked
“I don’t. My mother is making me,” I replied.
“OK,” he said. “We might as well talk. I have hours before my next interview.”
We talked for two hours. I told him about my secret pursuits, the Victorian poet A.E. Housman whose poems I committed to memory, my passion for Shakespeare In the Park and the volumes of books I read about the history of European Jews.
After perusing my transcripts and mediocre recommendations he said, “You will never be accepted to New Paltz College. But I do see potential. Try to become educated, eventually.”
Two weeks later the letter arrived. I tossed it in the garbage unopened. In a serendipitous lucky moment, my mother opened it and screamed from downstairs, filling the whole house with sound, “You’ve been accepted! You are going to be a teacher!”
When I arrived in September, 1966 with my new clothes and tackle box filled with gauche paints, I tried to find the gentleman who changed the course of my life. He was gone. I never knew his name. No forwarding information was available. Any good I have accomplished throughout my life is a direct result of his initiative.
I often think of him, this time of year, September, when school begins. If you are reading this, if it is helpful, or even inspiring, know the anonymous gentlemen, who threw that “stone in a lake,” created ripples still active to this very second in time. All good.
No one accomplishes anything on their own.