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A small act of kindness

By Nathan Rice

He was patiently waiting as I spoke to his parents, but I saw him out of the corner of my eye carefully tearing something in half. He placed one half of the item he had just torn into his mouth and held the other half in his hand. There was a break in my conversation with his parents, and he used that break to walk up to me. He placed half of a stick of Trident gum next to me and said, “Here you go. This is for you. It’s my last piece.”

I said, “Thank you” and picked up the half-stick of gum. This gesture may be seen as a small act to many people, but it stuck out to me as something much greater. He was not forced to share. I didn’t even ask him for a piece of gum. Nevertheless, he had something he thought I would enjoy, and he freely shared even though it was his last piece. It was an unprovoked act of kindness.

The world can be a dark and cold place. We live in a culture that can create a lot of me-first mentalities. This causes many people to have a very selfish attitude, and there are times when it seems like people being kind to each other is a thing of the past.

Everyone would say “yes” if I were to ask if the world could use more unprovoked acts of kindness, but I wonder how many of us will say that we will be the ones to start doing these acts.

Little acts can go a long way in helping others have a better day, but there are several reasons we fail to do small things that can make a big difference.

The first reason we fail to initiate small acts of kindness is that we just don’t think about doing them. We aren’t necessarily selfish, but the thought of purposefully trying to do something to help someone else have a better day doesn’t enter our mind.

We can change this by simply reminding ourselves to do at least one small thing each day that can place a smile on someone else’s face.

Other times we think that we have to do something big to make a difference. We spend our time trying to determine how we can do big things while missing all the small things that easily come our way.

Doing small things to help others can be as easy as letting someone with only one or two items get in the line in front of you at the store. It can be as simple as holding open a door for someone or letting someone who is having trouble merging get into your lane.

These small acts of kindness may not seem like much at the time we do them, but they have the strange ability to make the day better for those who receive them. I doubt Joshua remembers giving me that half a stick of gum, but it made me smile and made my day better.

Unprovoked acts of kindness have a way of spreading. I have tried to keep Joshua’s kind act going, and his small gift inspired this column, which I now hope encourages you to spread kind acts throughout our city.

How much better could our city become if we adopted this type of behavior? How nice would it be if we started giving and receiving these small acts of kindness daily? There’s only one way to find out, and it begins with each of us.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.