A once-popular bumper sticker surfaced in the 1980’s. It said “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Two years ago, I wrote a blog post with my thoughts on random acts of kindness, so I won’t bore readers with a rehash of why I think such things won’t make the world a better place. I’ll just leave it at this: it’s not about random things—it’s about changing your heart to be kind in spite of unkindness, anger, and hatred all around. Random acts of kindness are just wallpaper.
Change your heart. That, my friends, is the work of our lives and we’ll probably never perfect ourselves in this world.
I’m stepping off my high horse now.
Living up here on Route 9 for the last year, I’ve gotten used to the traffic whizzing by from about 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Zoom, zoom, zoom. An occasional motorcycle screams by and once in a while a logging truck chugga chugga chugga downshifts to make it up and around “The Ridge” before coasting smoothly into town. My landlord and friend, Rick Mason, goes to work really early, sometimes before the sun comes up.
One day, a vehicle went by and I heard two long beeps.
I didn’t think much of it, but then I got a text from one of my classmates.
“That was me!”
It was Alan Thomas, the fourth grade funny man.
Alan and I were in Mrs. Hunnewell’s fourth grade class. So was Donna, Susie, Christy, Steve, Steve, Patrick, Julie, and a few other small town friends who I get to see more of now that I’m home. I still get to see Mrs. Hunnewell, because Alan invited her to a barbecue he had at his house and he invited me, too. It was a real treat.
Alan had a lot of energy when he was in school and sometimes I think he had a little too much for some of our middle-aged teachers. But back in those days, high energy boys were sent outside on their high energy days. Mrs. Hunnewell probably told Alan to go outside and run around the building one afternoon instead of trying to make him sit properly in his seat and read a book.
In fifth grade, one of our teachers sent Bobby Delorme outside to count the bricks in the building; did Alan have to go with him?
I’m not sure.
Alan moved away from our town in (I think) sixth grade and I didn’t know what happened to him until very recently. He grew up, got married, started a business, and had a family. He has grandchildren. I’m honored to know his wonderful wife, Janet, too.
Alan is still funny and he still has a lot of energy.
As I’ve gotten to know him, what I’ve observed is that he is kind. He doesn’t have a bumper sticker on his truck that says so, but he lives his life in a certain kind of way, looking out for people.
That’s what I see.
It’s pretty chaotic in my life and in my town right now. Lisbon is getting ready to host the biggest party of the year, The Moxie Festival. I’m getting ready to move to my new old house on a hill. I’ve haven’t developed a routine about mowing my half-acre lawn and sometimes it looks a little shaggy; not like my neighbor Breezy’s.
(And what’s not wonderful about having a neighbor named Breezy? I’m sure I’ll have a few stories about him one of these days and maybe his daughter, Susie, who was in Mrs. Hunnewell’s class with Alan and me.)
On Monday, I got a text from Alan.
“I left a surprise for you at your house.”
It was one of those days and I wasn’t able to get away from my work until early evening. Nothing on the front steps or in front of the garage. I opened the front door, looking for a gift bag.
I walked through the house to the mudroom and went out the back door and started taking my clothes off the line. Then I looked up from my clothespins and looked down the long sloping lawn. There were the neat and orderly lines of a riding lawnmower. On one of the hottest days of the summer, someone had mowed my lawn for me.
Later, I texted Alan and thanked him and we chatted a bit. I told him I wanted to tell people about his kindness, but I didn’t want to embarrass him. You know what he said?
“You can if you want. Friends help friends. I love to help people.”
Not random acts of kindness, but friendship. Friends help friends. Small, committed groups of friends can make a difference and there’s nothing random about that. In fact, it’s wisdom.
Today’s great wisdom was brought to you by my friend, Alan Thomas, owner of Al’s Irrigation, in Wales, Maine. Would that everyone reading my blog have a few good friends and remember, to have a friend, you have to be a friend.