Sunday, January 15, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness

One of the purely nicest coworkers I have told me a story about a situation she encountered last week. I asked her if I could post about it on the blog. After some hesitation she agreed, with the understanding that I would not use her real name.

Summer Patton lives with her husband and children in a small bedroom community north of Los Anchorage. She commutes about 100 miles a day and therefore proper vehicle maintenance is important to her.

Last week Summer had her local mechanic perform the usual 3000 mile oil change. While she was paying the office manager, a heavily bundled couple walked into the office. They had obviously walked through the 10 degree weather for a significant distance.

Summer collected her receipt and moved aside as she waited for her car to be done. The man and the woman approached the counter and the man asked if their van had been fixed as he pulled some crumpled bills from his pocket. The office manager said that it had been fixed and the total was $120.02. The man looked surprised and said he only had $80. The office manager gave him a snotty tone and said that the total was $120.02 and if he didn’t have the money he would have to come back when he did or he could take it up with Jimmy, the mechanic.

So the man walked into the shop area and spoke with Jimmy while Summer and the other woman waited in a tense silence and the office manager actively ignored them both.

The man came back and told the office manager that Jimmy told him he could pay the $80 cash and write a check for the rest. The man told the office manager that he would have to post-date the check for the balance.

The office manager loudly sighed then looked down her nose at the man and said “we have to run verification of funds of all checks. If there’s not enough money in the account you’ll need to leave and come back with the balance before we will release the van to you.”

The man just looked at her stunned and wide-eyed while he tried to figure out how to explain a third time that all he had was $80 and that he needed the van in order to make the money in order to pay the bill and that Jimmy seemed fine with the arrangement.

The office manager continued to look down her nose at him as if daring him to contradict her again.

Summer had watched all of this (including the part about check verification which had not been done to her own check) and then stepped forward to ask the office manager to confirm the amount of the remainder of the bill. The office manager glared at Summer then confirmed it was $40.02. Summer told the office manager she would write a check for that amount.

Both the heavily bundled man and woman were stunned but immediately thanked her and told her that she was exceptionally kind. Summer graciously minimized her generosity with “Oh it’s not a problem. It’s what most people would do.”

And that’s the part of the story which gets to me. I’m not sure most people would do what she did. I think most people (and maybe even me) would consider the whole situation simply none of their business, not their problem, and having nothing to do with them.

I’d LIKE to think I would have done the same thing Summer did but one never knows what they are made of until they are tested.

Summer is made of pure kindness.


Jas said...


I think that there are triggers in all of us that encourage certain behaviors. Some of those are good, and some of those are bad.

For me, it is seeing someone with a dog.

Especially if the person is homeless, and the dog looks like it needs care or food.
(remember me feeding the homeless dog?!)

For Summer, it may have been a destitute family, or an unscrupulous business person of authority, or who knows.

I think that we all have it within ourselves to be better people when given the opportunities. The trick is to be paying attention.

There are also personality types at play.

Do you let someone with only one item ahead of you in a checkout line at the grocery store?

Do you let people in traffic into your lane?

Kindness can be shown in many ways.

You might think you will not do the right thing, but from the environment where we 3 kids were raised in, I don't know how we couldn't do the right thing?

Eric said...

Summer has three kids too, funny deal.

TEN33GIRL said...

Summer sounds like an amazing person. People like that, and their caring actions, make us re-think the way we interact with others.... your lucky to know her :)

mrshellonheels said...

Thank you for sharing that story. I needed to hear something postive today

Still Searching... said...

Summer sounds like a wonderful person. Not many would have done that, to my way of thinking...

The Catapillar said...

I think there are random acts of kindness in all of us. Summer did an amazing thing and should be commended. Thanks for sharing this it helps to restore my faith in human nature. :)

Gavin Corder said...

What a heart warming story! I'd like to think it's something to do with Alaskans.

My sister (we're English) spent a year working in Anchorage, our mother went over to visit her and got chatting to another woman at Heathrow who was returning home to Anchorage. When Mum's luggage continued onward to Japan, (as happens) this woman totally befriended our mother, lending her nightwear, clothes etc then introducing her to all her friends.

Being British, Mum had typical embarrassment explaining her presence at all of this woman's social occasions, other than to say, " Renee brought me back from England - I am a genuine British souvenir!"

They still write 20 years on!

Vanessa said...

You have to love a story regarding a random act of kindness. I think my attitude at the moment dictates whether I take the opportunity to act in a situation such as this.

However, it is fun to see the look of surprise on a stranger's face when you hit them with kindness. It never fails - it is always completely and utterly unexpected. What does that say about the human race in general, kindess is bit lacking in our society?

Dawn said...

What a wonderful story. Your work collegue sounds like an amazingly wonderful person.

Chandira said...

Awesome story..
I did a similar thing, but it didn't cost me $40. I called a friend of the owner of a lost cell phone recently. Owner was also surprised any body had bothered..

jas, I think some people play on that dog thing! Not to let my uncharitable side show, but I've known people begging who will use dogs as a sympathy-getter...

yes, lots of ways to show kindness, and different triggers. Good points. I think animals are a big one! I can't resist the dogs either.. I just get annoyed that they know that, and chose to keep dogs in less than ideal situations. I feel sorry for the dogs.. But I guess if I was homeless,a dog would be everything. So I can't really get that mad.. lol

Bug said...

That is sweet! It warms my heart to hear that there are still people who care out there :o)

Sandy said...

She really is a special person!! PS Gavin of love your accent. : )

krome.obsession said...

This is truly sweet. What's my trigger? Someone hitting someone who can't fight back. I've lost count of how many fights I've jumped into to stop someone from getting the life kicked out of them. It always angers me that people just stand there doing nothing while someone gets the absolute crap beaten out of them. But thats just me ..

sophie said...

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. I certainly don't think "most" people would have done that.

Marie said...

you got me thinking about how i would have responded in that same situation---i mean i have brushed snow off of an elderly's car--paid $5 for someone short at the grocery store and a few other little things--and i wish i could say 'hell yeah i would do that' but when push came to shove, i am not so sure--food for thought i guess

dazed said...

that IS a fantastic story! If I had the money at the time I would do as Summer did, just to piss off those snooty garage people.

I know exactly how those people feel. I have been there myself and I will be there again.

That story was great. Thank your co-worker for allowing you to share.

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