Being a Force for Good with Amanda Fall

Guest Post by Amanda Fall for the Kind Kindred series.
(Originally published on 6/20/11)

Being a Force for Good

Do you think one simple act can begin an avalanche of kindness? A tidal wave of hope? A landslide of love? I do.

Every day we are faced with three choices: leave this beautiful place better for our presence, make no change, or—saddest of all—add to the ugliness and despair.

In a world rocked by disaster, isn’t it more vital than ever for us to be a force for good?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we turn into Mother Teresa overnight or channel Gandhi by this time next week. Changing the world starts with the simple: a touch on someone’s arm. A smile as we pass in the street. Opening a door. Sending an unexpected note, covered with x’s and o’s. Sharing half your cookie.

Sounds doable, doesn’t it?

Let me tell you how one man’s simple act a few days ago began a ripple of kindness in my own life.

On her way over to my house to pick me up, my mom noticed a loaded table by the roadside with a big sign: FREE. When I hopped into her car, she asked if I wanted to stop and check it out. I shrugged. Why not?

A few moments and a few goodies later—a lamp, perfect for a DIY project; a barely-used board game to share with friends—Mom and I looked up as a man emerged from the house behind the table and hurried toward us. We asked, “Is this really all free?,” gesturing at the piles of stuff. He assured us it was; he’d just finished a yard sale, and had to dash off for his son’s fifth birthday party. Anything we took, he said, would save him clean-up time later. “Help yourselves!” he flung over his shoulder, car door slamming shut.

As my mom and I cheerfully dug through the piles, we discovered more and more treasures, far more than we could ever need. A child’s car seat. Clothes. Dishes. Coffee pots. Telephones. Soon, as we tucked a few more blessings into the car (tank tops, which I love but wouldn’t have had much cash to buy; a handheld vacuum cleaner for Mom), other people pulled up and wandered over to peruse the table with us. Each person found something, often exclaiming how it was just perfect for what they needed, or how a friend would love it, or a grandbaby.

When we were about ready to leave—car loaded with goodies, hearts overflowing with surprised delight at this windfall of kindness—another two ladies approached, perhaps another mother and daughter, but a generation beyond Mom and me. They, too, were amazed to find items that were exactly what they wanted or needed, and asked if we were sure it didn’t cost anything. Not a penny!

I grabbed a sheet of paper from the table, borrowed a pencil in Mom’s car, and scribbled a note: “Thank you for your generous spirit. We found so many good things!” Mom helped me tack it to the table, tearing off little bits of masking tape that held the FREE sign. The two ladies smiled, saying, “Oh, I wanted to thank them, too!”

All four of us burst into excited chatter, sharing how we’d heard of offerings like this in bigger cities. In Minneapolis, I said, I’d seen couches out on corners, computer desks, and all kinds of things set out with little fanfare except those humble signs: FREE. Sometimes a subtitle: “To a good home.” My mom shared how in a few weeks she wants to invite the community to come over to her house for a giveaway, offering items for which she’s outgrown the need. We all smiled at each other, agreeing how good it was to share, to keep things out of the landfill, to joyfully pass on what we don’t need.

The silver-haired woman threw her head back, gestured to the deeply blue sky, and said, “We live in a wonderful world, don’t we?”

We really do.

Those free goodies I picked up? None of them are life-changing. But the people? The camaraderie? Coming together in a spirit of community, even for five minutes in a busy day? Leaving a little love behind, letting our generous host know how much we appreciated him? Sharing joy with strangers? Yep. Those tiny points of connection, pulling our disparate lives together, are far from insignificant.

Promise me this, will you? Never think your contribution isn’t good enough, big enough, far-reaching enough. The gentle words you share with someone who grieves? The banana bread you bake for a neighbor? The weary smile you offer at the end of a difficult day, knowing that the stranger probably needs compassion too? That’s where healing begins. That’s where this world grows stronger, kinder, where sunshine outweighs the dark.

And your simple act of kindness, the one you delicately drop into the greater pond of connection? Well, trust me: you never know just how far those ripples may reach.

 


Amanda Fall loves using her writing and visual art to challenge people: can you find beauty and meaning in the minutiae of your everyday life? See and read Amanda’s discoveries at her site, Persistent Green. Check out Sprout, a lovingly hand-assembled, digitally produced ezine filled with luscious color and tender words.

Kind Over Matter will be highlighting posts from the archives leading up to an exciting announcement the week of the 16th! Stay tuned, lovelies!

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