I suppose it’s a little unseemly to consider what you’ll get in return for performing an act of kindness. If I were a better person I would excrete selfless good deeds from my pores while whistling all the livelong day, bettering the lives of others with nary a thought how it made me feel. Right. Selfless. Redundant.
But guess what? Not that person.
So here’s what happened: A woman got on the bus (oh, the drama on NYC public transportation!) and didn’t pay her son’s fare. Her son was maybe 8, but there’s a height cut-off and he was too tall to ride for free. Most drivers wave all kids on unless they are loudly, obnoxiously and undeniably middle schoolers, or Amazons, like my gals. Many a parent, including myself, has hoped to save $2.50 a kid, but are prepared to pay if asked. This mom didn’t have it.
The driver was in the right, but was barky about it (“You can’t just march on here…”). The mom failed to take the high road, instead making a left at “jerk-off” and a u-turn at “asshole.”
So I paid the kid’s fare. The woman thanked me. But then she kept arguing with the driver, even as she steered her son to a seat, muttering and sputtering in anger. I sat putting on my mascara.
I suppose I had hoped that my paying it forward would sprinkle the fairy dust of kindness all over the M21, briefly making our little four-person universe a better place. It kinda didn’t.
I shared this with my co-worker Lauren, who edits The Kindness Project, a page at Woman’s Day in which we ask readers to share small acts of kindness. “Oh, yeah, it’s an interesting sociological question,” she said. “The whole idea of how the good deed will be received. It’s not always pretty.”
Lauren told me how she offended a woman by offering her her seat on the subway (again with the public transportation!). “She said a snippy, ‘No thank you. I’m not that old.'” Yeesh. Essentially the feeling of being offended by Lauren’s gesture (which was, in fact, because she was older looked like she needed to take a load off) overwhelmed the warm fuzzy spirit in which it was made. In my instance, the woman was touched, but instead of being inspired to forgive the driver his grumpiness, she kept on with the anger. My boss Susan said she has been saying hello to her neighbors as she jogs by and they look at her like she’s a nut job.
The bus mom said, “Thank you again,” as she disembarked. Perhaps she’ll mull it over and the fairy dust will work its magic after she’s had another cup of coffee. Maybe she’ll pay something forward (a few weeks ago a woman named, of all things, Geisha, bought me my coffee at my office caf because I was short). My friend Gordon suggested perhaps another rider who witnessed it will be positively affected, adding to the occasional fantasticalness that is the human condition.
Here’s hoping! In the meantime, have a day.