As I drive along the avenue that follows the river’s winding course through downtown, I see a man in the bushes. He is packing up his tent. Further along, I spy another man tidying up a make-shift campsite.
Autumn is falling and the leaves are becoming sparser. Those who once were hidden in the foliage are now visible.
I walk along a downtown street on my way back from a meeting. A man is panhandling outside a coffee shop. Years ago, when I started working in the homeless sector, I made a decision to not give money to panhandlers. I ask if I can get him a coffee and a donut. He thanks me. He likes his coffee triple/triple, with extra sugar on the side, please.
I stand at a cross walk, waiting for the light to change. Across the street I see a man drop a napkin on the ground. Perhaps he doesn’t notice. The man behind him picks it up and throws it into the garbage can as he walks past.
A woman is walking across the street when she drops her bag. A man, who looks visibly homeless, stops to help her pick up her things. Everyone else keeps walking by.
I step onto an elevator. A woman races towards it. I press the button to keep the doors open as she steps on and thanks me for holding the elevator for her. As the elevator starts up, I give her a compliment on how pretty her outfit is and how the colour suits her beautifully. She thanks me. “I really needed to hear that right now,” she says. And smiles as she gets off on her floor. It is not an ‘easy’ floor she’s getting off on. It is a clinic that handles really, really difficult issues for women. I am grateful I took the time to share what I was thinking when I saw her.
I am on the bus I take from the C-train station on my way home. The bus pulls away from the bus-stop just as a man races towards it from the station. The light ahead is green. The driver can’t stop. She honks her horn, waves at the man and points to the other side of the intersection. There is no bus-stop there but that’s okay. She waits for the man to cross and get onto the bus.
I am on the C-train (subway) in the morning, on my way to work. In the seat across from me a man sits reading something on his cellphone. We stop at a station and a pregnant woman gets on. The man immediately jumps up and offers her his seat. I think about complimenting him on his consideration and hesitate. And then I remember the rubber bracelet a friend at Choices gave me on the weekend. It’s message reads, “Pay It Forward”. I slip it off my wrist and offer it to the man. “That was very considerate, giving up your seat,” I tell him. “I’d like to pay your act forward with this bracelet.” He looks at me surprised. Looks down at the white rubber band bracelet with the blue lettering and takes it from my hand. “Now you get to pay it forward,” I tell him. And he smiles and thanks me and tells me that he will. “I’ll enjoy doing that,” he says.
As I step off the C-train I think about Tony, the man who gave me the bracelet on the weekend. Not only is he committed to paying forward the gifts he received when he went through Choices by sending every staff-member in his company willing to go to Choices, he bought a box of the white rubber bands that read, Pay It Forward, so that he could celebrate acts of kindness whenever he sees them. I am grateful for his generosity, just as I am grateful for the countless acts of generosity I witness on the streets, in elevators, in coffee shops, everywhere, every day.
They are all over the place. Acts of kindness that resonate with heart and human connection. Moments of grace that fill my heart with gratitude, that fill my spirit with hope.
We may be one messed up, crazy world, but we are still a place where miracles happen in every moment, and love and connection embrace us in every act of kindness.
As you go about your day today, take a moment to act out on an act of kindness. And if you see one being committed, let the person know you caught them in the act. Pay It Forward by giving them the gift of your gratitude.