"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." ~Aesop
It's certainly not an earth-shattering concept.
I probably don't really have to convince many people that being kind is a valuable thing, but sometimes we could all use a little reminder. After being largely alone on the road for the past two and a half months, away from friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances, I've come to realize the impact of actions and words - even fleeting ones - to an even greater extent.
Yesterday, I was the recipient of two acts of kindness. I had a tire that had been running low repeatedly over the past couple weeks, so I headed to Sierra Vista, Arizona, the closest big(ish) town, to have it evaluated. I figured I had a slow leak, but also thought it was entirely possible that the folks at Discount Tire Store would tell me that I needed a set of new tires and I'd have to decide whether to take their word or not. I had never been to one of their locations, but it was one of only two options available to me, so I gave it a try.
I waited patiently for around 45 minutes, at which point a technician came and got me. I was a little taken aback when he said my car was ready, because they hadn't consulted with me on any work. He informed me that I had a nail in my tire and that they'd plugged it, and handed me an invoice.
The cost: $0.
I'm not sure if this was a company policy or not, but they certainly could have made an attempt to find a way to make some money off of me. After expressing my gratitude, I left, happy that my car wasn't tugging to the right anymore.
I also needed an oil change, so I hopped over to the Jiffy Lube next door. I know Jiffy Lube isn't the cheapest place to get your oil changed, but without knowing the local operators, a chain offers some sense of reassurance. The guys there were incredibly nice and professional, and then for some unknown reason discounted my service and threw in an extra service for free.
I hadn't shared anything about myself with any of these people, and these experiences left me feeling better than any of the workers at those places could have fathomed. I thought about it the rest of my day, as I climbed to the top of a mountain on a trail at Coronado National Memorial. I reflected on it as I cooked my dinner. I remembered it as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep.
In fact, I began recounting my entire trip in my head, remembering the interactions I've had with people along the way. Admittedly, being social has never come easy to me, especially in an unfamiliar environment. My interactions with others have been pretty sparse, and honestly, I think I can remember nearly every time I've spoken with another human being, no matter how fleeting, since leaving home. I can certainly recall every time they have been kind.
I hope I have occasionally had the same effect on someone else's day as these people have on mine. I may not be rich, but as one of my favorite sayings goes, "It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being."
In closing, thank you to a few of the kind faces while on the road:
- The hospitable guy working at the museum at Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- The kind Scottish woman who owned the hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- The enthusiastic couple who just got engaged on the Talimena Scenic Byway
- All of the incredibly warm, sweet, and friendly folks working at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
- The people who owned the house where I lived as a baby and without hesitation ushered me in for a tour
- The guest at the hotel in Roswell who chatted with me as I ate breakfast in the restaurant
- The overwhelming number of people in Las Cruces who were pleasant to me
- The folks at Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, who went out of their way to talk to me about sites in the area and my journey
- The front desk clerk in Silver City, New Mexico, who upgraded my room
- The kind couple and their dog who greeted me and chatted at length on the streets of Silver City, trying to recruit me as a resident
- The ice cream scooper in Austin who inexplicably charged me less than full price, and wanted to chat all about where I was from, how my day was going, and my trip
- Sheryl and Doug, Hoosiers turned Austinites, who welcomed me into their home for a lovely home cooked meal, and later treated me to a fantastic vegetarian restaurant
- The kind staff and adventurers at Big Bend National Park
- And, last but not least, the great guys at Discount Tire Store and Jiffy Lube
If I missed you, I promise you are still in my heart! Cheers!