Last month, I wrote about everyday heroes and how each of you works with clients and students as they face life’s challenges. In many ways, all of you are heroes, albeit ones who are unsung in so many cases.
This column looks at another positive human action — namely, those random acts of kindness that demonstrate the goodwill and heartfelt compassion of those from various walks of life. I was in Denver recently, and one night I glanced out a window overlooking a pedestrian bridge with several steep stairs. I noticed an elderly man walking with the aid of two crutches while carrying a bag of groceries. He slowly and methodically was making his way up the steps. Zooming past him was a young man who easily navigated the steps, sometimes taking them two or three at a time. But as he got a few feet past the older gentleman, he stopped. Looking back, he realized the elderly man was facing quite a challenge. So, he went back down the steps, talked to the man, took his groceries and then helped him get across the bridge.
I was also reminded recently of an incident a few summers ago when I was at our community swimming pool. Many of you know that in the middle of July in the Washington metro area, it typically gets quite hot and humid. This was one of those days. As I left the pool and went to my car, I found it had a flat tire. So, I began the arduous process of changing the tire in the heat and humidity. Somewhere around the middle of this “adventure,” as I was drenched in sweat, a young boy rode up on his bicycle. I heard him say, “Mister, you need some help with that tire?” I thanked him and said I was fine, but I didn’t even look up at him.
What was wrong with me?! I should have accepted the help and, more important, I should have taken the time to look up, see who this young person was and acknowledge his random act of potential kindness. For weeks afterward, I looked around the pool in hopes of getting another opportunity to appropriately thank the boy, or at least to let his parents know of his willingness to help a stranger.
The young man who helped the elderly person carry his groceries and the boy who wanted to know if I needed help with my flat tire didn’t volunteer because they were guaranteed any financial reward. They simply recognized that someone needed help, that they possessed the ability to provide that assistance and that it was the “right” thing to do.
Similarly, all of you in the counseling profession work with clients or students who need your expertise as they seek ways to deal with challenges and problems. Although you are paid for your work as professional counselors (though not enough!), I recognize there are other intrinsic benefits to knowing that you “did the right thing.” Your acts of kindness are incredibly important to a world that faces turmoil, strife, economic uncertainty and the constant struggles associated with living in an increasingly diverse society.
I would like to suggest that you practice one more act of kindness. Find a colleague and express your appreciation for all this individual is doing to help clients or students. It may not be like winning the lottery, but it is an action that reminds those in the helping profession that they are special, they are appreciated and they, too, can be the recipients of random acts of kindness.