28 February 2013


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 01 March

"Remember, there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." Scott Adams

I'd planned to write about something brought to my attention earlier this week - a charity that advertises heavily in support of wounded warriors. But the facts are troubling and require a bit more investigating and analysis and thought as to how best to frame the comment.

Instead for today, a true story that happened a few good days ago. It's the type of story I don't usually tell but decided to on this occasion in hopes for a greater purpose - 'for a ripple with no logical end.'

First to set the stage...

Twelve or 13 years ago I received a phone call late one morning from a friend who was riding the Washington, D.C. area Metro heading back to his office. He was alone and thinking - he told me he'd just left the doctor's office and had been diagnosed with cancer. 

A longtime friend, I was one of the first people he called.

Something he said during our short conversation stuck with me. Though I do not recall his exact words they were something along the lines of, 'All these people sitting around me, going about their business, have no clue where I just came from and what I was told and what is racing through my mind. And yet I wonder what secrets, what burdens, they are quietly shouldering.' 

That perspective caused me to pause, and to think.

Life is tough. And no one goes along without bearing a cross or two - big and small, to say the least, along the way. And some end up bearing more than others. Not only is life tough it's not fair. But oft times, so busy with our lives, families, and troubles, we forget others are not immune to trying times. I try not to - to forget, that is.

In dire need of a haircut, Tuesday morning I made my way to the unisex shop I usually patronize. 

It was seniors day so there was a crowd. I checked in with the young woman greeting customers by using my public alias they have on record - it's the last name of a famous deceased artist I admire. It's my "restaurant" name. A little fun thing to do and it helps with anonymity.

Told the wait was 30 to 45 minutes, I took a seat.

About 20 minutes later a nicely dressed young woman that looked to be 8 months, or more, pregnant came out, with stylist in trace, from getting her hair cut. The stylist rang up the bill and waited for the woman to pay.

She searched through a rather large purse - a designer type cloth bag. Then searched again. And then mumbled something about it being in here somewhere.  

Not more than a half dozen paces away and observing and hearing all, the woman was getting upset. She could not find her wallet nor credit card. The stylist was patient. Another stylist was standing nearby. And a third stylist was working on a customer in a chair adjacent to the register.

Soon all the customers were tuned in to the problem.

The woman, rather flustered, made a call on her cell phone and told whomever it was (assuming her husband) she could not find her money - leaving her bag on the counter she walked outside to continue the call. She paced in front of the store.  

I watched her from my seat. It was clear she was upset. And maybe it was just another hiccup as to what was not a good day for her.

For whatever reason, the telephone call from my friend years earlier flashed through my mind.

An older woman was seated to my left.

I stood to approach the stylist at the register and asked how much the woman owed. So told me and I covered the debt and threw in a bit for a tip.

The woman was still outside on her phone oblivious to what was going on inside. And she appeared to be distraught.

I told the three stylists, and other customers, when she comes back in just tell her that her bill is covered and to have a nice day.

A few minutes later the woman came back into the shop. Before she could speak, her stylist did just as I asked. The woman was in disbelief. And the stylist again told her it's all taken care of. All the other customers carried on as if nothing had happened. The woman thanked the three stylists again, and again. And then she grabbed her bag and left.

The stylists thanked me.

I waited for my turn in a chair - after the older woman seated to my left.

After that older woman paid her bill she walked over to me for a word. She said, "Sir, I want to thank you for what you did. It has been a long, long time since I've seen such a random act of kindness. I don't know what, but I know something good is going to come to you. Just wait and see."

"Madame," I said, "Something already has - I was able to help someone who needed help. I could care less about anything else but thank you for your thoughtful words."

I was a Boy Scout - do a good turn daily.

We all have opportunities, that make sense and are right, to help others. You know them when you see them - this was one.

So Tuesday was a good day - for three hair stylists, for a waiting area full of customers, an older woman whose faith in people was assured, a young pregnant woman that needed a little help, and me.

I'd like to think had it been someone close to me in need that a stranger would have noticed and taken care of it. And I pass along this story for no other reason than to remind, to encourage, all to be alert for moments where you can quietly make a difference - and maybe start a ripple; something America could use a lot of these days.

They're all good days!

And we're all in these good days together - make them a little better, lend a hand when you can. Discreet anonymous direct gifts the best.

And I will address that "charity" matter soon.

Post Script

As it was, the daughter of a Marine cut my hair. And one of the other stylists married a Marine. During my cut, they learned I was a Marine. At that, I suspect they were not surprised by the act and that story was told around dinner tables that evening - about some Marine acting and known only by a strange alias. I'd not have it any other way.


Marc said...

The alias wasn't Tony, was it?

Tom H. said...

Andy - Thanks, on several counts: 1) for your random act of kindness; 2) for sharing the experience; and 3) for reminding us all that kindness is uplifting and empowering - for everyone.
I look forward to your upcoming article on the matter of Wounded Warrior charities.

ak said...

Your story brought tugged at the heart strings...thanks Sir, you are a wonderful human being and friend!