A non-random act of kindness by Gia Machlin, September 18 2009, 1 Comment

A couple of weeks ago, I gave notice to one my professional organizations that I would not be renewing my membership for the year. This group meets monthly and I figured that with the business, all my involvement in non-profits and other professional organizations, and my son starting at a very demanding middle school, it would be wise to drop one commitment. To my complete amazement, the members of the group were quite vocal about their disappointment with my decision. Somewhat stunned and obviously touched and flattered, I still decided to take the break I needed. What does this have to do with environmental stewardship? Bear with me.

In one of the emails I received from members of the group asking me to come back, my colleague wrote that I was "an exceptionally kind person." Now I am sure there are plenty of people whom I have pissed off in my life that would strongly disagree, but since she brought it up, I thought I'd take it a step further - what makes a person exceptionally kind? Aren't most of us well intentioned, thoughtful, considerate people under the stresses of our daily lives? I would like to think so.

Humor me for one more minute before I tie this back to the environment. So a few days later I was riding the subway and I had a seat. Sitting across from me were two big guys wearing T-Shirts from a moving company and one of them had a weight belt on. They were obviously in good shape. At the next stop a woman, perhaps in her late 70s, got on the train. She looked tired. The movers saw her but didn't acknowledge her. I offered her my seat and she was very appreciative. So I started thinking about this "exceptionally kind" comment. Am I really "exceptional" in my kindness? I don't think so.

My husband is one of the kindest people I know, he is often getting me to think about the consequences of my actions on others, yet I'm not sure that he would have offered his seat to this woman if he was riding the subway that day. Why? He is usually not that observant or tuned in to his surroundings. He might have been wrapped up in thinking about the day of work ahead of him. I'm sure those movers were probably nice guys themselves. I just think they were not taking that extra moment to think "what can I do right now that would make the world a better place?"

So I challenge you all to do that, to disengage from the worries and the hardships and the deadlines and distractions, and notice the people around you. Does somebody need help? Can I make one person's day a little less of a drag? Can I do one thing that would help make the earth more livable? If we all get into the habit of doing this once a day, and include environmental stewardship in this behavior, then we are on the right track.