Having “practiced” being 75 for the past year, I am now officially that age. I might even stay 75 until I turn 80 if I am lucky enough to live that long.
But about that 75 RAK project I undertook. I have two favorite stories. One happened on the first day. I was at Kohl’s early one Saturday morning, and the cashier was making lots of errors trying to complete a sale for the man in front of me in line. “Sorry, “ she said. “I haven’t had my coffee yet.” When my turn came, I asked her where she got her coffee. “At Dunkin’ Donuts.” “And how do you take it,” I asked. “Large black with 7 and 7.” “What?” I asked. “I don’t understand. What’s 7 and 7?” “7 sugars and 7 shots of cream.” I couldn’t even imagine this, but I went to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts where they didn’t even question this strange order. I took the coffee back to Kohl’s and a surprised and delighted cashier.
My other favorite involved an elderly man walking with difficulty even with a walker. Often out at the same time, I would see him walking from a senior residence to the corner store, a round trip of just under two miles. One day, as we approached one another, I stopped and said, “I just wanted to tell you that I really admire you.” “Why?” he asked. “Because I frequently see you walking and I can tell it isn’t easy.” “Oh, there’s no alternative,” he said. “What do you do if it’s raining,” I asked. “I go out the door, and if it’s raining a little I walk. If it’s raining a lot, I go back in. It will always be there.”
There were, of course, other personal encounters, but in general I was surprised and disappointed that direct people contact for my acts of kindness were the exception. Some acts felt forced, so in the future I would focus on spontaneity and opportunity. More often than not the acts consisted of charitable contributions, written notes, leaving a flower or gift at a door, and things like picking up litter: far less dramatic than I thought. I had set up “rules” for myself that made it even harder. 1.) It didn’t count if I’d do it anyway, such as a monthly note to a lonely friend. 2.) I decided that some actions like holding doors open, smiling or saying hi, letting someone go in line ahead of me were just common courtesy, so I couldn’t count them. 3.) If there were several opportunities on one day, I could not storehouse them to use another day. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform an RAK each day and was very relieved to complete #75 yesterday.
I don’t know if these acts changed the world at all, but the project changed me. For one thing, I have become a more cheerful giver. I was happy to leave a generous tip for a chambermaid whereas before I sometimes resented leaving one at all. It delighted me to leave overly generous tips for wait staff. I’ve decided that when in doubt about how much to tip or how much to give to charity, give more. I will probably never again be able to walk by a piece of litter without picking it up. I will be more aware of opportunities to perform acts of kindness. I will write more notes of appreciation and recognition.
Through it all, I became aware of acts directed at me: how a smile or hi from someone brightens the day as does a driver who slows down and waits even though I am not at the crosswalk yet.
Conclusion: I’m glad I did it but don’t recommend the project.
© Dorothy C. Judd
Next post: Monday, Sept. 9th