Random Acts of Kindness are NOT Random

The morning of December 21, my Brother’s birthday, I happened to see an interesting and inspiring story on the Today show. You can see the video and read the transcript here.

A family moved into a house and was cleaning out the previous owner’s belongings, who was a deceased elderly woman. The family found a duffel bag full of cash – almost $24,000. Instead of putting their own family’s needs first, they promptly began looking for her next of kin, found a son, and returned the money.

The interview closes with a question to the wife, Cathy. The interviewer, NBC’s Mike Leonard, asks (and I am paraphrasing here) – What if someone wants to do something nice for you?

She responded, “Just do something for someone nice. You will get the opportunity. It might not be $24,000, but you will get an opportunity to do something for someone. Probably today.”

She was right. Her words stuck with me and I had my opportunity to put her words into practice two days later – my story is below the jump. And now, I am trying to do it everyday.

On December 23, two days after seeing the Today show segment, I was standing at the DFW American Airline check-in counter retrieving a misplaced boarding pass. Next to me was a young Airman. He was carrying his Air Force rucksack that had his rank and name. His first name was Joshua…I never did catch his last name. He was talking to two ticket agents. The agents were explaining that he would not be able to fly to Charleston until the next morning and were reviewing his lodging options. None of which were especially cheap to an enlisted man and I began to think of all the other uses for that money – beer with friends, calls home when deployed, Christmas gifts….and yes, I did think of these uses in that order.

At this point, I am obviously staring and eavesdropping. The kid was visibly upset – not angry, but very sad. Almost like he might cry.

My breaking point for this nonsense was when Airman Joshua asked, “Are any of the U.S.O. facilities in DFW open all night?” The agents confirmed that none were open and his only option was to sleep in the terminal or get a hotel room. I was thinking, “He is going to sleep in terrible places during his enlistment and we can’t even get him a room with a bed now?!?!?”

Then that Today show segment clicked. I interrupted Airman Joshua and began asking questions. “What about the Grand Hyatt? It’s in this terminal, right? How much is it? Wow, that cheap with the military discount? It is really a nice hotel. Can I just pay for it here or do I need to walk this Airman over to the hotel to check in?”

Two minutes later, after protests from Airman Joshua and thanks from the agents, he and I were standing at the Grand Hyatt. During our brief stroll, he explained he was heading home for a visit before being deployed to Afghanistan in early 2012. I told him about my brother’s deployments and how happy we are to have him home safe. At the hotel lobby, he showed his military ID. I handed Brittney, the hotel clerk, my credit card. She swiped it. I asked if I needed to do anything else and she responded his room was taken care of. I hugged him, told him Merry Christmas, and to be safe.

On the escalator back to the terminal, my first thought was I should have bought him a burger and a beer. And honestly, my next thought was that his entire unit could be stuck in DFW and they may empty the mini-bar on my tab. I dismissed that thought with this – I did something nice for someone and I can’t control what they do with the opportunity.

I barely made it back to the terminal in time to make our flight home to Tulsa. The Husband figured I had been rambling on the phone to my family and lost track of time.

As we gathered our carry-ons to board the plane, I told him what I did. He said, “Ok…”, and after a short pause, he continued, “What if he runs up the mini-bar?” I started laughing and said, “I guess we would have to pay for it.” He laughed and we started our holiday vacation – helping someone and learning a valuable lesson: Keep your eyes and ears open and you will meet someone who can use your help, no matter how major or minor that favor might be.

I wanted to share this story because helping someone was really that easy. I was only slightly more observant and eavesdropped a little closer than I usually do and an opportunity to help arrived.

Just a reminder of Cathy’s wise words: “Just do something for someone nice. You will get the opportunity. It might not be $24,000, but you will get an opportunity to do something for someone. Probably today.”

And as for my title, “Random Acts of Kindness are NOT Random”? I believe if you are open to looking for the opportunity, the actual act of kindness is quite simple.

p.s. Airman Joshua, we got the bill – apparently you didn’t know about the mini-bar. Or did and didn’t use it. I hope to see you again and buy you that burger and beer. We owe you more than one. We thank you for your service. My family is praying for your safe return soon. Be Safe.