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Join the kindness epidemic

Published December 28. 2013 09:00AM

Decades ago, I loved to watch the TV show, "Mission Impossible."

On occasion, I still use the opening line: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is (fill in the blank.)

OK, in this, the start of a new year, I'm doing it again. I'm giving you a mission.

Yes, you.

If you choose to accept it, you can change the world, one small corner at a time.

I need you.

Your friends and family need you.

Your community needs you.

Your country needs you.

We need you to give something away. No, not money. Although you can do that, too. Local charities need your support more than ever. But giving doesn't have to be about money.

What we really need you to give away is an uplifting moment, a little at a time.

How can you do that?

Easy. Engage those you see. Really see them by looking them in the eye. Then give them the gift of a smile.

It doesn't have to be a big smile. Just a little one will do the trick. It will make someone know you "saw" them.

Much of the time we rush though our day and don't see the people around us. People are just a blur we don't see as we rush by, especially during this busy season.

The other day I entered the supermarket for what seemed like one trip too many. Even after lugging home a huge grocery order, I still kept running out of things I needed. So, not too happily, off I trounced again to the store.

As I picked up a basket, an older man walked by and gave me the sweetest smile. He was just a pudgy, bespectacled older man. But he wore his niceness like an outer garment.

His sweet smile reminded me people are basically nice. I liked the small uplifting moment I got from the smile.

So I decided to give a few smiles away, too.

The deli line was so busy we had to take a number. All we were thinking about was how many were before us.

Catching the eye of an older woman who looked as harried as I felt, I smiled at her. She smiled back.

Oh, there's something else we need to give away, too, because there is a critical need for it.

It's called niceness niceness under any and all circumstances.

If you don't believe we have a critical shortness of niceness read the newspaper or scan the stories on the Internet. So many of the stories could be filed under the category: Man's inhumanity to man.

There was the man who shoved a woman in a big box store, causing her to fall and be trampled on. He rushed away without a backward glance. Other shoppers went about their own shopping mission before a Good Samaritan finally stopped to help her.

That was just one small example of the niceness void.

We can fill that void. You can. I can. We all can forget our own agenda and step forward at every chance to lend a helping hand.

I won't even go into the sick stories that made the news - the senseless shootings, the death of a man who was shoved off a train platform.

I read those stories and know there is nothing I can do except light a candle - a candle of caring.

One small act of kindness on your part can light up the darkness for someone.

Last month, my daughter needed surgery for what might be cancer. A friend insisted she would drive us. "I don't want you there alone if it's bad news," she said.

Jeanne stayed in the hospital with me for six hours until we finally got the good news - it wasn't cancer.

She definitely lighted a candle of caring that blazed through a difficult day for my daughter and me.

A small act of kindness may seem like nothing to you. But to someone, it may be just what they need.

Years ago, a plate of cookies from an acquaintance probably saved my life, or at least gave me strength when I no longer had any. That small act of caring gave me the fortitude to continue through difficult circumstances.

I won't tell that story now. I bring it up only to emphasize the power of one small act of caring.

Perhaps you've had situations where someone's kindness gave you an emotional lift.

Perhaps you've been the one to give away kindness.

People are basically good. When confronted with a chance to do good, most people would not hesitate to help. But unless we are hit in the face with a situation, we don't "go looking" for how we can help.

We don't ring the doorbell of a lonely elderly person to offer a little company or holiday cheer.

We don't stop and chat with a neighbor we don't know very well. In some neighborhoods, people don't even wave.

We don't offer to drive an elderly person to a medical appointment when he or she can no longer drive. You'll never know how much that means to someone until you are the one without a car.

Don't throw away your old clothes or household stuff. Give them a second life. There are plenty of second hand stores that raise money for worthwhile causes.

You get the idea. Look for opportunities to be nice. You'll feel better for it as you help make your world a better place.

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