Sitting in Copley Square last week eating my lunch, I heard the following words over the Nicki Minaj blaring in my ears:
“Excuse me, miss. Sorry to bother you but, uh, do you have a dollar?”
I looked up to see a middle-aged man standing about 4 feet in front of me. I took my ear buds out.
“Sorry, I don’t have any cash on me.”
“Ok so people usually tell me they don’t have any money and then they do. So I’m going to tell you a story and then if you still don’t have a dollar it’s ok. Ok?”
“Ok. So this morning I was in Chinatown with my wife and kids. Out of nowhere, 50 ninjas come out and kidnap them. Then, a little Japanese man came out and told me he’d teach me Kung Fu to get them back BUT it’s gonna cost me $2. Cash. And I only have $1.”
Clearly, this probably didn’t happen. But, you never know, he might think it really happened so I wasn’t going to insult his reality. But it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t have any cash on me.
“Well that’s just awful. I still don’t have $1. But I’m sure someone else around here would want you to learn Kung Fu and also has $1. I wish I could help. I’m sorry.” I said with a smile.
“That’s ok. Just to let you know, that story didn’t really happen. I just wanted to make you smile. Oh and, since you don’t have a $1, do you want this one?”
Adam Jack and I went on to have a 10 minute long conversation about Justin Bieber, Adam’s scheme to convince a lesbian in China to marry him for $65 million (it involves first marrying a different lesbian in Utah), and why money isn’t really that important (because everyone has credit cards now, duh).
Answer me this: do you remember all of the people you’ve come into contact with today? I certainly don’t. We move so fast and encounter so many different human beings. I’ve walked to Back Bay Station dozens of times and encountered hundreds of people. Adam Jack sits in Copley Square every day. I have walked by him dozens of times and yet, I’ve only said hello once. In doing so, I had my day brightened by a complete stranger who simultaneously opened my eyes to how disconnected we are. There are so many amazing people out there just waiting for us to uncover. So many friendships we don’t even know about yet. But what will happen if we never unplug and engage? I don’t want to find out. We need to start getting out there and making connections.
I have another question for you: Have you done anything kind today? I hope the answer is yes. There’s a social psychology experiment that is often done on college campuses. The researcher drops a pile of papers in the middle of a high traffic, public place. Then, they wait to see if anyone will help them pick things up. Surprisingly, not many people stop to help. This is a problem and it NEEDs to be addressed. Hold the door open for someone or say thank you to the grumpy T Driver. Hug a friend, hug an acquaintance, hug yourself. The power of kindness is so underrated. Kindness is free. And when done repeatedly, kindness can become a habit. Being kind to another human being is one of the most amazing things we can do while we’re here on earth.
When I was done eating my salad I asked Adam Jack what he was doing for the rest of the day. He told me that he wasn’t sure of his afternoon plans, but that he had already gotten breakfast at the shelter and spent 2 hours “goofing on people.” He then told me the voices in his head hadn’t told him what to do yet this afternoon but that this morning they told him to make people smile. After a final handshake, I told him to have a fantastic day and he once again tried to give me his $1. I again refused and told him to go try to get some Kung Fu lessons. We laughed and went our separate ways. Our encounter lasted only 20 minutes but that 20 minutes gave me more to think about than hours of watching TV or walking around with my headphones on ever could. We need to connect and we need to be kind. Kindness is contagious and now is the time for us to start an epidemic. Start smiling and make a connection…hopefully someone will catch your kindness and pass it on.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” -Plato