WHEN MY KIDS were small, a favorite exercise when we’d drive through a toll booth would be to give the collector some extra money “for our friend behind us”–even though we had no clue who was in that following vehicle—and then drive away as fast as we could.
Usually the bemused motorist would speed up to catch us and then come alongside and crane their neck to try to see who we were, figuring they must know us, at which point the smalls in my back seat would smile and wave at them.
Hardly an extravagant gesture, but it was a little lesson in unnecessary kindness, which heaven knows the world could do with a bit more of these days, right? That’s why I always enjoy coming across guerrilla goodness, like the person who left an envelope on the music shelves of one of my local public libraries entitled, “Rough Day? Read Me.”
Inside was a handwritten note telling the reader that, hey, things were going to get better, that they weren’t alone in the world, and that someone cared enough to remind them. Or the folks who tucked a five dollar bill in with their Redbox DVD return and a note saying, “We loved this movie. Hope you do too. Have some popcorn on us!”
Such actions seem pretty insignificant in the shadow of the world’s ugly headlines, but what might happen if each of us decided to randomly bless someone else’s day? I wonder what sort of goodwill that combined kindness might generate?
Part of the power of this, I suspect, lies in its anonymity. It’s almost as though by denying someone the opportunity to discharge their gratitude directly to the doer, their thankfulness gets amplified when it is redirected. I’m not clear on all the reasons why, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that a thank you closes the circle, while a pass-on creates an unending line—like the almost 400 people who were part of a pay-it-forward chain at a Florida Starbucks.
If e=mc squared, then ?=tq cubed.
But we really talking art, not science.
If anonymous benevolence causes people to look around wondering why, I believe it can also cause them to look up and wonder Who. A gift from a stranger can be a tiny grace that restores some wonder and mystery to our lives, pointing us to the source of infinite grace.