Kristen Douglas

You never know who’s watching…

It’s been said that a random act of kindness can inspire others.

I found some truth to that notion recently.

Last week, while home on my lunch break, I was looking out my living room window, silently watching the wind whipping the trees around and the rain coming down so hard that it was bouncing off the pavement.

As I was watching Mother Nature put on a show, my attention was suddenly diverted to my neighbour’s house across the street.

I watched (not in a creepy way, I swear!) as he walked down his driveway to pick up his garbage can and recycling bin and then take them back up to his house. Instead of going back inside, though, he walked back down his hilly driveway.

I thought to myself, ‘he’s not really going for a walk in this weather, is he?’ but then I lost sight of him and looked away.

Seconds later, he reappeared in my line of vision carrying his neighbour’s garbage can and blue box.

I was so impressed.

Here was a guy who made a second trip down his driveway in absolutely disgusting weather just to do a good deed for his neighbour.

I don’t know why it struck me as such an Earth-shattering gesture. I’m sure that type of thing happens all of the time, especially with the windy weather we are prone to getting in our town.

Maybe it’s because, while I hear of such kind gestures after the fact, I don’t usually witness them in action. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t sure that I would have made that second trip down such a steep driveway in that awful, awful weather.

As I sat there contemplating that – bang!

As fate would have it, my next door neighbour’s garbage can blows over onto the road.

It was a defining moment. Well, at least, in my mind it was.

Would I be a good citizen, a good neighbour, a good friend and grab the garbage can?

Or would I stay in the comfort of my nice warm house and watch it, praying that the wind would keep it on the side of the road?

I thought of the neighbour. If I was so impressed that he did something nice for his neighbour, why would I not do the same?

Plus, I thought, maybe this was a chance to redeem myself.

Rewind to December, 2015. My husband and I were in the Starbucks drive-thru. As we rolled up to the window to pay, we were shocked to hear that the woman in front of us had paid for our order. It was the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for me and I was touched. Minutes after pulling away I told my husband that we had messed up. We should have continued the chain of kindness and paid for the order behind us.

I’ve regretted not realizing that sooner ever since. And then, days later, I read that a Florida woman started a chain reaction of 250 people paying it forward in a McDonald’s drive-thru. It made me wonder if we could have started something similar here in Campbell River.

Although I’ll never know, it’s small acts like that that restore my faith in humanity.

Working in this industry, we’re often exposed to humankind at its worst because that’s typically what is making news. People killing people (i.e. Syria), people bullying and spreading hatred (i.e. Donald Trump) are the types of stories readers consume. Because it’s fascinating. It’s like a car accident – you don’t really want to see it but at the same time you can’t look away.

So, we’ll continue to report those stories but at the same time it’s nice to be able to call attention to those who are doing good. Even if it’s something as simple as bringing in your neighbour’s garbage can.

One act of kindness, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, will always have an impact. If not on the person you’ve helped (because maybe you’ve done it anonymously) then maybe on the person you never knew was watching and who was inspired to do their own charitable act.