I don’t often expect bathroom graffiti to send me into a spiral of existential examination.
But I was traveling recently through the Charlotte Airport. I made a quick stop while rushing to catch my connection, juggling my carry-on, boarding pass and Jamba Juice, when I saw this;
It stopped me in my tracks.
It clearly was not referring to my up-since-5am-unshowered-jetlagged external You. It must mean some deeper You. Something more profoundly universal that applies to each person who… you know…sits there.
To me, it refers to the You that still does the best it can even when you’re beaten down by the world. The You that sees the essence of life, and finds cause for celebration and deep, stomach-cramping laughter. The You that keeps breathing, in and out, and soaks in the moment for whatever it is. That You – that Us – really is unwaveringly beautiful.
I wondered about who wrote it and what their intention was. Did they know it would trigger a moment of deep reflection in E Terminal? There was a wonderful act of kindness contained in that purple sharpie. (Also a bit of property damage, but we won’t go there.)
It made me think about something that happened a few months ago. While I was walking to my car through a parking lot, I found a checkbook on the ground. I circled it a few times and poked it with my toe – apparently inexplicably suspicious of it. I looked around, but there was no one. So I picked it up. It had a name and a street address with an apartment number. That made it complicated, as an apartment might not have a secure place to drop it off if nobody was home. But I knew that bank had a branch that was a five minute detour for me. So I stopped by and gave the checkbook to the teller. She was sweet and surprised and grateful. I liked thinking that maybe I saved someone some stressful moments.
I don’t recall this to proclaim How Great I Am. Nor is it an instruction manual for how to be happy, because the feeling I experienced would not really be categorized as happiness. It is just an example of a time where I felt really aligned. Like I’d hit the sweet spot of being a human being. I was in the zone. I felt deeply contented. It took all of ten minutes, but I swear my soul was high off it for days.
They call these things – like reflective graffiti and checkbook returning – Random Acts of Kindness. I get why they’re called “random”, but I prefer to think of them as Mindful Acts of Kindness. I love randomness and spontaneity. But the problem with spontaneity is sometimes it doesn’t get done. I don’t spontaneously go canoeing on the James River nearly as much as I would like. I have to be mindful about the things that I want to be a priority in my life. And I want to prioritize doing simple, kind things – for the selfish reason that it makes me feel fantastic.
There is lots of inspiration for Kind Acts out there. Sure, the ones involving money, even in small amounts, make people happy; paying tolls and giving gift cards are great. But I prefer the Acts that are free. They require more creativity but I think they get to the point that anyone can do these things, regardless of their situation. Everyone has the capacity for immense kindness. I like Acts such as returning grocery carts and handwriting notes of thanks to underappreciated folks.
A woman named Robyn Bomar did something really cool. She spent her 38th birthday doing 38 random acts of kindness. Come on – that’s like shooting a speedball of soul satisfaction.
So thanks to a bathroom stall, I have recommitted myself to the simple yet significant idea of kindness. To friends, to strangers, and yep, even to myself.
Have you carried out/received/witnessed a Mindful Act of Kindness? What was it? Did it go as planned, or did it have unexpected results?