In the spirit of Christmas and the New Year I decided that for this month’s challenge I would do at least one random act of kindness every day for 30 days. Growing up in a small town we routinely did little things to make people’s days better; paying for the car behind you in the toll booth (although that doesn’t really exist anymore with the advent of E-Z Pass), paying for the person behind you at the D&D drive-thru, giving people directions when they seemed lost, and just generally helping people out when they needed a hand even if you didn’t know them. However, it seems that the longer I live in the city the farther I find myself from this mentality.
Over the past five years of city living I’ve noticed that I’ve become exceedingly good at ignoring other people in my day-to-day life. Whenever I leave my apartment I set a brisk pace, keep my gaze forward and slightly downward, ignore the homeless people and lost tourists, get on the T, turn my iPod on, and repeat the same thing from the T to my destination. Basically I just try to get where I’m going as fast and easily as possible, only occasionally considering the fact that I share this city with a few million other people. I make the classic excuse of, “If I paid attention to everyone then I would never get anywhere on time and I would never get anything done”. Daily I see people begging for money, wandering lost, struggling with the Charlie Card machines, playing music outside in the winter, or carrying huge suitcases up the stairs (why people have such big suitcases I’ll never know). It would simply be just too exhausting, both emotionally and physically, to help all of these people every time I came across someone who needed it. They’re adults, they’ll figure it out without me. Even if I tried to help, they’d probably think I was up to no good and trying to steal their stuff or ask for money, so I just avoid it in general.
Ever since I left home in Maine I’ve been continually concerned about myself and what makes me happy and successful. For five years I focused like crazy on finishing my undergraduate and graduate degrees, getting a good job to pay off that education, exercising to keep me healthy, adventuring to make me happy, studying outdoor skills to make me smarter in the back country, taking more college classes to further my career, taking guitar lessons to be a better musician, starting a blog to experiment with my lifestyle, and the list goes on. I’ve succeeded at a lot of these things because when I put my mind to something I go all out until it’s finished. However, focusing 100% on myself with little regard to others (even random people) is not exactly the perspective I’d like to have in my day-to-day life.
I’m hoping that by focusing on my surroundings through an “Act of Kindness” lens that I’ll relearn how to notice the little things that could make city-living a little better and friendlier for everyone. I don’t like going through my day not being personal, not smiling, and not acknowledging other people. However that’s what my daily life has become, a constant rush to get here and there while trying to ignore most everything else. There’s no reason that I can’t get where I’m going and take an extra 10 seconds to make someone’s day a little bit better by giving them directions or writing a note to say thank you to someone who has helped me out. Little things can go a long way. I imagine that doing this challenge in Boston will be different than doing the same thing in small-town Maine. Maybe not, maybe people are exactly the same, I’m not sure. My one conversation per day challenge proved to me that people in Boston are indeed friendly and conversational if you’re willing to make the first move. I’ve learned a lot about myself, the people around me, and the city of Boston throughout my five previous 30-day challenges so I’m excited to see what this one has in store for me. If you have any suggestions for random acts of kindness let me know and I’ll try my hardest to find a scenario to use it in.