Being a good neighbor. Sometimes it means helping someone move, or lending a tool, or simply just being there for them when they need a shoulder to lean upon when no other shoulder is around. Occasionally it means taking action to aid them without them even knowing it. These small acts add up to form a bond that build neighborhoods into communities, strangers into friends...a gift that keeps on giving in unexpected ways. The holidays are a perfect time to strengthen the bonds with your neighbors, sometimes openly, but occasionally covertly...
When I think of the times I've been moved to commit random acts of kindness, they've mostly been under the radar, and more often than not, gone unrecognized in the end. I've always believed the most amazing moments in life are those gifts granted without notice or expectation, so I've always held in my heart to try to act upon those impulse desires and discreetly act as an agent of kindness. And to be honest, I'm kind of shy about bringing attention to myself (except online, where I'm strangely brazen, brave and full chutzpah), satisfied knowing sometimes the best acts of generosity are those done under the radar:
Around the hood, I've sort of earned the title of the guy who keeps his car the cleanest. Although I think this is an exaggeration, I admit to be fairly committed about keeping the car clean due to a genetic predisposition to keeping shiny things shiny (call me the magpie maid). One afternoon while I was just finishing the last details of a complete wash and wax, a nearby neighbor popped out his doorway to admiringly jokingly mention he wished I'd clean his aged and sodden car too, returning into his apartment to return to his weekend afternoon nap. While he was inside his apartment, I actually ended up washing and waxing his car, going as far to detail his wheels and the grill work of his aged sedan, driven by a strong sense by cleaning his car, I was granting him a wish. And how often do we have far-fetched wishes granted? The old Volvo had not looked so nice in years, I would suspect. I never heard from him about it, so I can assume he never knew it was I who washed his car, but I do know for that week his car looked fantastic.
Another time years ago, while living at home with my mother while she was recovering from the passing of my father, I noted that her next door neighbors had become quite elderly and rarely left the house now. At one time their home was well tended by a team of gardeners, and I also remembered as a child they'd ask me to help them cut a branch here, or trim a bush there. But for unexplained reasons, the gardeners stopped coming and their yard became overrun by weeds and grass. So one weekend while the old couple was away with their visiting family, I hauled out the lawn mower, hedge clippers and plenty of sweat and cleaned up their front garden. It was hard work, but then I thought it must have been much harder feeling alone inside with a house that needed some attention they themselves could not give it at their age. I could only hope the yard work let them know someone cared.
There are so many moments in life when we're given the opportunity to rise to a level of kindness we wished this world would bestow upon on us with more regularity. But for some reason we decide to pass up...I know I often am struck by the inspiration of "wouldn't that be nice?", but skip out. I hope to improve upon this kindness percentage in 2009, whether it be openly or on the sly, and especially amongst those whom I call my neighbors. Because there's something fun about keeping a secret...especially when the secret has made someone happy, undoubtedly rewarding ourselves in the process.
Hopefully you've got some wonderful tales of secret kindness to share here. Or perhaps they've yet to happen and are about to happen in the coming days!
[Creative Commons: Old Sarge]