One of my favorite parts of Project Kindness is hearing from my friends about acts of kindness they have experienced recently. Several of you have relayed personal stories, some of which have been inspired by reading about kind works here. Some of you have bought a stranger a cup of coffee, one of you has given a mother in need free crib linens, and many of you have provided meals to a family who needs the extra help right now. A friend of mine told me a great story today about being on the receiving end of one of these beautiful (and very random) acts of kindness and I wanted to pass it along. This friend is a young, hard-working, and responsible single mother of four. (I cannot even imagine.) She works full time, raises her kids with impressive manners, and always finds a way to make ends meet. She took her family to Charleston this weekend for a visit with her sister’s family. On Sunday afternoon, the whole gang went to eat lunch at a café. There were nine of them. The adults sat at one table and the six children sat at an adjacent booth. Before the meal was served, one of the children stood up on the bench and said a blessing. My friend said that she was relieved that all the kids behaved well and enjoyed the outing. When it was time to pay for the meal, the server informed her that the bill had been taken care of by a couple at a nearby table. They had paid for all nine meals! When her brother-in-law thanked the couple who were already walking out the door, the gentleman responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But God bless you.” Wow. That made a huge ripple. Since the grown-ups weren’t sure if the good deed had also covered gratuity, they left the waitress a generous tip. We agreed that the lucky server probably got tipped twice and my friend felt like that was her way of paying it forward already. I love this story. I know it’s not practical to routinely pay for an entire family’s meal. As our good friends on public radio are always saying (it seems), give what you can, what you are comfortable with. Every contribution is appreciated. Ira Glass would be so proud.
Inspired by the gift of food for strangers, I decided to channel my act of kindness today in that direction. I’ve been stocking up on BOGO canned goods at Publix for a couple of weeks. A few dollars here and there. I’ve been storing them in the trunk of my car until I collected enough to make a significant donation to a local soup kitchen. Today seemed like the right day.
The Project Host Soup Kitchen is about two miles from my house and on my way home from work. When an opportunity to help people is situated that closely to you, it makes it hard to come up with too many excuses not to. I really like this particular soup kitchen. It has been serving lunch to 200 people a day for over 30 years and I have worked several volunteer hours behind the counter serving up tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Now that I have the wee ones, hands-on volunteering opportunities get tricky in a hurry. Maybe I could take them with me to pull weeds in the Project Host vegetable garden some time. Playing in the dirt is one of their favorite pastimes. Food for thought. (Pun intended.) Until then, having the baby help me deliver canned goods might be the closest we get for a while. We pulled up a little after the lunch hour and found the doors to be locked. I knocked a few times, but it was noisy inside with all the dish washing and pan scrubbing. The baby reminded me that it was past her nap time, so we went to Plan B. We stacked the cans of soup and beans in a nice pyramid formation on the bench outside. Mary Hazel stopped trying to knock them down after the third time. Surely someone would discover them upon leaving for the afternoon and conclude that a soup fairy must have left them. If someone who happened to be walking by with a can opener found them sooner, then that is perfectly OK, too.
Mary Hazel and I were both amused and a little nervous about the company who
stalked found us. Trying to keep any Alfred Hitchcock references far away from my overactive imagination, we just enjoyed watching them. One of us may have been guilty of Doin’ the Pigeon. There were, however, no witnesses (that I know of) to back this up. Anyway, I like to think that these bird friends were enjoying what the soup kitchen was paying forward.