In a time when all the big things feel out of control, sometimes it’s the small acts of kindness that keep us going. I was lucky enough to catch the “kindness bug” at a neighborhood park last week, and I hope sharing my story will inspire you to catch it, too.
I started the day in a tense mood. Like most of us right now, I had a super-sized platter of problems to worry about. Then, halfway through my walk across the park, I saw a cheerful sidewalk chalk message: “You got this!!!” The bright blue words filled an entire square of the sidewalk. I didn’t believe the message was true, but I couldn’t help smiling just a little.
A few hundred feet ahead, I found another message: “Have Faith.” Then, “You Are Loved.” The writer had added a few pink hearts to that one.
There were more all across the park’s walking trail, popping up like spring flowers where I least expected them. “Don’t give up.” “Be kind.” “Blessings and good vibes.” By the time I read the last one, my smile was real. I went home with more “spring” in my step and more determination to meet the challenges I faced.
I’ll never know who wrote those words. The writer will never know what a difference they made for me. The messages weren’t elaborately designed, and they probably took the chalk artist about ten minutes of work, total. But the encouraging words turned my whole day around.
As I headed back to my home office, I thought about the other little acts of kindness I had received in the past few weeks—things I too often took for granted. The neighbor who cleared the muddy places on the sidewalk at that same little park, using his own tools brought from home. The overworked grocery sacker who took the time to smile at me even though she looked exhausted. The friend who texted me a joke she knew I would love.
Since the morning I found sidewalk messages, I’ve been on the lookout for ways to pay it forward and lift up the people around me in return. I took pictures of the first iris blossoms for my friend who was recovering from COVID-19 and couldn’t get out to see them for herself. I mailed a cheerful letter to an older homebound relative. I’ve been more mindful about my social media posts, avoiding empty complaints and focusing on positive, useful content. My goal is to make the world around me better, but my small efforts lift my own spirits, too.
Like most communities, my entire city is catching the kindness bug. Churches, businesses, nonprofits are all doing what they can. I applaud these efforts, but sometimes I feel frustrated that I can’t do more to help. The sidewalk-chalk messages reminded me of how little it really takes to make a big difference.
We can’t all serve on the front lines during this crisis. We may not be able to donate money or even deliver groceries. But all of us can find a way to encourage and support others, even if we don’t have much besides a piece of chalk.
In a season of turmoil, small acts of grace are more than good manners or good PR. They can be the lifeline that helps someone hang on.
If you’ve caught the kindness bug too, or passed it on to someone else, please share in the comments. You might inspire other readers with a new way to give back!