I have a towel that I keep, even though it doesn’t match any of my bathrooms.
The yellow-striped towel is my reminder of the importance of random acts of kindness.
Several years ago — well, more than five, I guess — my husband and I traveled to the Columbus area to check out the Easton Town Center. If you haven’t been there, it’s what community planners call a “lifestyle center,” a lot like Crocker Park or Legacy Village…only bigger. It’s got a kajillion shops and restaurants, including some specialty stores like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware that just aren’t very common around here.
Among the stores and restaurants are large courtyards with park benches and fountains. They make great places for people to gather and relax.
In one of those areas, there is a splash pad, where kids were having fun cooling off as water squirted up from the sidewalk. We did not know this beforehand.
However, my children are never shy about jumping in to play in the water. Once they even swam in a pineapple-shaped fountain in Charleston, S.C., that I think was more designed for admiring from the outside. But…they were hot, and bored by the quaint historical architecture that had enthralled me, so I figured that whatever embarrassment I would suffer by allowing my kids to splash around like hooligans beneath the graceful pineapple was a small price to pay.
Anyway, here we were at Easton, my children once again not nearly as interested in our surroundings as my husband and I were. After pleading with them to walk through Crate & Barrel without touching anything, was I really going to deny them this opportunity to get wet?
In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” my husband ordered a Thai Chicken pizza from California Pizza Kitchen for the two of us to share while the kids played on the splash pad.
We relaxed and enjoyed our “adult food” while they played, but inevitably, the time came when the wet fun had to end… and we had nothing to dry off with. I guess I had planned to just let them air-dry as we walked, but the mother next to us reached under her stroller and pulled out a towel.
“Here,” she said. I smiled, but declined. “That’s OK, thanks,” I said.
“No, really, just take it. It’s an old one,” she said. “You can keep it.”
I was astonished and grateful all at once. We really did need a towel — I mean, the children were probably 3, 4 and 6 at the time, and here they were, dripping wet. Here she not only had brought towels for her own children, but she had one to spare. Or maybe she didn’t really, but knew that we were out-of-towners and needed it.
I always marveled at that random act of kindness. It wasn’t a bad towel at all. Maybe it didn’t match her decor any longer, but it was nicer than several I had at home in my linen closet. It was definitely not a rag.
It was an act I would not have considered at that point in my life. And yet, she did it so casually as if such kindness was second-nature. I’ve kept it ever since, and remember the story every time I see it. I have tried to emulate that spirit, offering toys or sharing snacks with irritable toddlers during church, and bringing meals to the sick. One day I know I will be asked to share something larger, and I pray I am ready.
I’ll bet that mother will never know the impression she made.