kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Stranger Kindness

We are not rich people.  Rich in fun – yes.  Rich is experiences – YES.  But “rich” in the traditional way that most people define the term – ummm, no.  So even though I am all about spreading the kindness around, most of the time our kindness is not the type that involves money.  For example, we donate TIME to National Public Radio (answering phones in the fund drives) instead of donating actual FUNDS. 

But recently I switched it up.  I wanted to see what would happen if I surprised a stranger by gifting them something that, to me, is important:  A CHRISTMAS TREE.  I was nervous about it for some reason, but went for it.  Here is how it went down.

We went to Walmart mid-December to buy our Christmas tree. They were $22, which, although not expensive, was more than I remembered them being last year.  We didn’t get one on that first outing but went back a few days later to choose.  When we got there we were surprised to find that they were marked down to half price!! 

Well, we had expected to spend $22 bucks on a tree, so I decided to keep with that expectation, but buy TWO TREES – one for us, and one for complete strangers. 

It was so bizarre.  I had to convince myself (out loud) that this was the right thing to do.  Then I had to convince my partner David!!  I rationalized it by saying things like, “It’s only $11.  I mean, that’s not a lot, right??” and “Surely someone else will come in tonight that hasn’t gotten a tree yet, don’t you think???” and “If we do not see someone to give it to, I can always just take the receipt up to Customer Service, explain the situation, and they will give me the money back, don’t you think?”.  Maybe I was trying to rationalize it to myself or to prepare myself if it all back-fired.

Anyway, I paid for two trees.  David delivered one to our car.  Then we set about finding someone to gift the second tree to.

Two trees....
We waited.

And waited.

It got chilly.  The trees were outside in the Garden Department, and even though we were in Florida the temperatures were cool enough that we should have had jackets on.  David went back to the car and got a blanket and I pulled out two lawn chairs for us to sit on. 

David in "waiting" position

And we waited some more.

Shhhhh - a gift of a Christmas tree!
A couple of people walked in the Garden Center entrance, and I could feel my nerves, excitement, and concern building.  Were these the right people to gift the tree to???  How would I know?  Would I offend them if I offered?  Would they think I was nuts?  Should I do it??? 

Drat – they weren’t looking for trees… 

More people came in, and they seemed to maybe be looking at trees…  But should I approach them??  They seemed to have plenty of money to buy a tree of their own…

And that’s when I started to consider my actions…  Was I “judging” who I would gift this to?  Did someone have to “qualify” for my kindness by meeting some unwritten/unconscious “standards” I must have had floating around in my head??  Oh my, the whole idea seemed to be getting worse and worse every moment.  I thought about just giving up, going in the store and getting what we needed and leaving.  But we stuck it out a bit longer.

And that’s when a couple walked in.  A couple.  No kids.  Didn’t look poor, didn’t look rich.  Probably in their late 20s, early 30s.  They were definitely looking at CHRISTMAS TREES.

So I did it!  I mustered my courage, sprung up out of my lawn chair, and approached, “Are you shopping for a CHRISTMAS TREE tonight?” I asked. 
“Yeah, yeah we are.” 
“Great!  We would like to give you one.”
Silence.  Smiles. 
“Listen, we also got our tree tonight.  And we are glad we are not the last ones in town still looking for a tree.  And we just wanted to share a tree with someone, and it is you!  Can we give you a tree?”
“WHY SURE!!!” – big smiles. 

It worked!  They were happy!!  They were thrilled.  They were grateful.

They chose their tree and thanked us several times.  The man had the hardest time understanding the concept of what we were doing, and when it finally sank in he said, “OH!!  So you BOUGHT this tree for us??!!!  That is so cool.  We are going to PAY THIS FORWARD!  We will!  We will pay it forward!”. 
We exchanged hugs – right there in the Walmart Garden Department, hugs with strangers.  We exchanged “Merry Christmas”es.  Then we all went about our lives.

We saw them later in the grocery part of the store – they saw us first.  “Merry Christmas – thanks again!!!” they said.

Here is what our tree looked like after we got it home and decorated it
So we spread a little Christmas kindness.  Sure, it was only $11 of Christmas kindness, but it was accepted as if it were worth hundreds.  J  It was worth the angst, worry, self-examination, and definitely worth the money. 

What sort of kindness will YOU spread today?

Fun bonus Christmas photo - us as Mary and Joseph at the DRIVE THRU BETHLEHEM in Daytona Beach, Florida - complete with LIVE FARM ANIMALS!!


  1. I liked this story. I want to point out that you ARE fun AND money. You can afford to eat Trader Joe's....or just plain groceries. You live in a house. You travel places. I am a low income senior who lives on $733/month disability. I pay 72% of that money for rent. I get 91 cents per meal from SNAP. I can't even imagine buying a tree. I loved reading your reviews about Trader Joe's food....not because I want to know what to buy, but because I can't afford to buy most of the things you write about. I get to "virtually taste them" without spending money. Don't ever forget how rich you are. It's a blessing to have both what you need and some of what you want.

  2. Oh no.... I woke up today to find an amazing comment on this blog. It was from someone named Wendy (I think). I read it with sleepy eyes and planned to shower, think, then come reply. And now it is gone. Wendy - are you reading this? I hope so.
    THANK YOU. Thank you for commenting and pointing out my naivete. I AM RICH. Rich in time, rich in experiences, rich in travel, rich in freedom, rich in love, and yes, rich in money. I have money to buy groceries. I have money to put gas in my car. I have money to buy a CHRISTMAS TREE. All of these things (and more) mean I am so much richer than many people.
    Thank you for your kindness in pointing that out to me.
    I don't think I dreamed your comment. I hope I didn't. It was something I needed to hear. And I have taken it to heart.
    I haven't met you in real life, but I am glad you are here in "virtual" life.
    Friends in Kindness,

  3. NOW I FOUND WENDY'S COMMENT! :) All clear. Thank you Wendy!

  4. Such a proof that humanity is still alive thanks to that beautiful story!