Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Acts of kindness

I'm visiting my parents in Tampa, and have two nice chain-reaction kindness stories to share.

On the flight down, a mom and three kids (10, 5, and 3) were among the last to board our sold-out Southwest open-seating flight. I had a nice window seat, because I wanted to nap. The middle seat was empty. Be nice, my better self told me, and so I smiled and offered to move to a middle seat a couple of rows back, which would make at least a pair of seats available. That started a short chain reaction. The lady sitting on the aisle in my original row was sitting across from her husband. The middle seat beside him was open, so she did her good deed and moved to it. Voila! All three kids could sit together. The man in the aisle seat directly behind the kids moved to the middle so the mom could have easy access to the kids. Then the guy in the aisle seat across the aisle offered to switch to that seat, and now the mom and kids could see each other.

It was such a lovely energy; actually heart-warming. And we were all repaid when the three children spontaneously began singing "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with such innocent happiness that everyone smiled that special smile that only comes when adults are around happy children doing something delightful.

Then, as the engines revved up as we were about to take off, one of the kids started a countdown: "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . . . . . BLAST OFF!" And not quite two hours later, when they saw water beneath the plane, came the shouted announcement, "WE'RE IN FLORIDA! WE'RE IN FLORIDA!"

Best flight I've ever been on.

This afternoon, my mother and I went to Barnes and Noble to do a bit of browsing and and have some coffee. The wife of the retired-age couple ahead of me in the Starbuck's line was delightfully friendly and chatty with the, oh, what do they call them, the barrista. Then a few minutes later she invited a man by himself, who was looking for a table without late afternoon sun glaring on the table, to join them. He declined, but I was happy to see someone so open and friendly that I went to their table and invited them to help themselves to the half-priced box of mini biscotti I had purchased for Mom and I to have with our coffee.

The friendly couple invited us to join them. I accepted; my mother gave me a look tinged with suspicion and irritation, but came over. We ended up having a wonderful time. The husband is a retired history professor. My mother is a recently retired music professor, and so there we were, three professors and the really fun one, the professor's wife. We must have chatted for two hours. The friendly couple and my mother exchanged numbers, and a new friendship may be developing.

Last night, my parents and I watched The Bishop's Wife on TCM. Cary Grant plays a very handsome angel sent to help an Episcopal bishop (David Niven) deal with a spiritual crisis as well as some marital problems with his wife (Loretta Young). At one point, Grant's character says, "I just wish human beings would act more . . . like human beings."

It's nice to be part of it when we do.

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