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Opinion: Random acts of kindness

We live in interesting times. The year 2020 will go down in the books as the weirdest year in recent memory. Here’s a happy thought, the year is only roughly more than half over.

I am still gobsmacked by the activities of some of my fellow Americans.

Is there anything I can do to help Make America Great Again? I am but one tiny cog in the machinery that is the USA, you might think. The cliché if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem can be applied here. This is both unfair and true. What can one person do to help get the America train running again?

Sorry, but our country healing itself is far beyond what I can fix no matter how many spells I cast or the prayers I offer. Enough about what I can’t do and on to something I can actually do.

I am referring to Random Acts of Kindness or RAK. We are all capable of executing RAKs. As an example, when I’m on Madera Avenue where it meets Gateway Drive, the traffic can get very congested. When I see a person that needs to merge into traffic, one who comes from the parking lot of the small store there, I will momentarily block the cars behind me to allow the driver to get his car in the queue.

As things go, this is a very small RAK. But one never knows what kind of day this other driver is having. This small act of kindness may be the only pleasant thing that happens to them that day.

Since RAKs are small and inexpensive, feel free to perform more than one per day.

In “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the character Blanche DuBois said, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

While this is not a good practice, generally, this week I was the recipient of an RAK from a total stranger. I stopped to pick up a large package at the Madera Post Office. A young Hispanic man saw me struggling with it and asked if I needed help. I thanked him and he carried my package down the stairs and put it in the trunk of my car. Had I attempted to wrangle that big box down the stairs, I have no doubt gravity would have intervened and the package and I both would have gone headfirst down those stairs.

It never entered my mind that he might run off with my box of pots and pans.

He didn’t have to help me; he chose to offer his assistance. This is the kind of RAKs I’m talking about.

We may take our own talents for granted, but to others they are feats far beyond what they are capable. Another example, I am something of a whiz when it comes to writing obituaries. If 25 years at The Madera Tribune has taught me anything, it is how to take random facts from the bereaved and craft it into a proper obituary ready for print.

When a loved one dies, people are emotionally raw. In some people, it brings out the best in their nature; in others the worst. A calming voice from a stranger can be very therapeutic. Someone to tell them they are sorry for their loss.

Afterwards, if I see the person again and they thank me for the help with the obit, my comment is that it was my honor and my pleasure. Helping a family prepare a final printed send-off for a loved one is important. Helping these vulnerable people does my heart good.

A friend once called on me to assist with his mother’s obituary. She was not a very nice person. Not to go into too much detail, we all attended the church I was raised in. So rather than write her final mention in the media that she was a hateful old harpy that was a burden to her family, I wrote that she was a former Sunday School teacher.

After the obit appeared in the Tribune, I got a text message from her daughter-in-law expressing her sorrow over the loss of my Sunday School teacher. That was an RAK for her son and daughter-in-law. The man and I literally have been friends since the cry room at church. That is the nursery where the crying babies are kept during church services. We shared a crib or a playpen many times. Trying to come up with something nice to say about his mother proved to be difficult. Then I remembered the times she told us the story of “Noah’s Ark,” and other Bible stories with a flannel board. The camel is a very vivid memory.

One more example of trading skills. One of our friends had the Lionel Train Set from his childhood but it was missing a few parts and clearly needed work to ever run again. Fred brought it home, blew the dust off it, picked up a few parts from our parts guy and in a couple of hours the engine ran like the day it came out of the Lionel factory in Dearborn, Mich.

The following week the friend drove his tractor over to our five acres and in about an hour, had the weed abatement treatment done as recommended by the California Department of Fire.

For him, he had lost hope that he would ever see his train run again. As anyone with just a small parcel of land can tell you, the annual weed removal, if done by hand, is a big pain in the neck. Both of us benefitted by the swapping of skills. To Fred, tinkering with a toy train engine was hardly a chore at all. To our friend Don Roberts, plowing five acres was just an hour out of his day.

Most people will be nice to their friends and neighbors during these trying times. Extending a Random Act of Kindness to a total stranger is what Jesus intended by the Golden Rule.

Have a blessed weekend and be safe dear readers.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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