Three seemingly inconsequential things happened to me one December. The first occurred as I left my house to run some errands.
He was wearing one of those red Santa Claus hats, with the fluffy white brim and tassel pom-pom on top. While festive and appropriate for the season, the hat looked a little silly on the old chap. Which is kind of the point.
I don’t know if the gentleman decided on his own to wear the hat, or if maybe his spouse suggested it. Either way, it made me smile.
“The world is part of us, and we are part of the world. Even through the smallest acts, we can demonstrate that. I believe in the human spirit, in the kindness in all of us, and I am hopeful for this world.” — Clemantine Wamariya
The Santa Claus hat added a dash of colour and Christmas spirit to the man’s sartorial presentation. It made a statement. Something like, “Season’s greetings, friends. Smile. Add a little colour and conviviality to your day!”
Unremembered Acts of Kindness
The second thing that happened to me today was in traffic. I was on a side street waiting for an opening in the sea of cars in front of me. They were all lined up at the red light.
The light finally changed and one motorist slowed and waved me in with a smile. Grateful, I waved back and quickly slid into the procession. Had the motorist not waved me in, I surely would have waiting sat for a while.
“The best portion of a man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” — William Wordsworth
The kindness of that motorist made me smile, and remember that there are good people in the world. We just tend to focus on the bad ones, since they make the news a lot more.
A few miles down the road, I got my chance to pay it forward. Someone on a side street was waiting their turn to enter traffic, and I slowed and let her in. She waved energetically back to me, with a smile.
It feels good to receive kindness and to give it.
Nobody Need Wait For a Single Moment
The third thing happened to me at a Target store. My 86 year old mother phoned earlier and said she needed some new pyjamas. She has Parkinson’s disease and is unable to walk, let alone drive. So, I was in the women’s apparel section at Target, trying to find my mother’s size pyjamas.
Since it’s the holidays, the store was hopping with activity. Thankfully, I was able to find some nice pyjamas for my mother, as well as an opening in the checkout aisle.
I greeted the friendly cashier, a grey-haired woman likely in her late sixties, and joked that the pyjamas were for me. We laughed, and then I admitted they were for my mother, who has Parkinson’s disease.
“I hope you know how wonderful it is that you’re helping your mother,” the cashier said, adding, “We blink and we’re old. And then our bodies betray us. All of which is why family is so important. We have to look after one another.”
“I agree,” I said with a smile. “So, this must be a crazy time of year for you?”
The cashier bagged the pyjamas, handed me the receipt and said, “Oh sweetheart, this is a wonderful time of year. Sure, it’s busy, but I love seeing all the excited children. I giggle at the lost husbands, trying to find gifts. All of this reminds me of how blessed we are to have so much.”
“Yes, you’re right. We are blessed,” I said to this remarkable, upbeat, optimistic woman.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank
“Tell your mother I hope she enjoys those new pyjamas, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season,” she said with a smile.
Walking out of Target, I couldn’t help but marvel at the cashier’s warmth, positivity, and cheerfulness. Amidst all those frantic shoppers and screaming kids, there was a woman who remained centred on the positive. On the goodwill and hope that this holiday season is all about.
Hope is the Thing With Feathers
I like to think of these special little moments in life as breadcrumbs. They are inconspicuous, often overlooked clues to the meaning of life.
We spend our days focused on the seemingly big-ticket items. Stuff like career advancement, getting ahead, success, fitness, and vacations. We frequently have an eye on the future, when we expect our dreams will be fulfilled.
The reality is that almost every day if we look closely, we’ll see the breadcrumbs. The smile of a stranger. The woman who holds the door for you at the coffee shop. The man who points out the money you inadvertently dropped. The child on the playground who hugs you, for no particular reason.
These breadcrumbs reflect the best of our humanity. Yes, we celebrate the heroic actions of others, like the bystander who pulls a child from an oncoming bus. But it’s the small, sometimes overlooked acts of kindness that show us who we are. What we’re capable of.
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul- and sings the tunes without the words- and never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson
What is the meaning in these breadcrumbs of life? Simply, that grace is all around us. Human kindness persists, despite the cruelties and darkness we sometimes see and endure.
The breadcrumbs show us that there is dignity and goodness in the world. Maybe even a bit of divinity. And while these bread crumbs may not offer us a full meal, they at least whet our appetite to the greatest sustenance of all: Love and hope.
Before You Go
I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint landscapes, and write about life. Get on my free email list here.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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Illustrations by John P. Weiss