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Acts of Kindness Abound
by Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

I've never depended on the kindness of strangers. I always prided myself on my independence and ability to do things for myself. Now life in a wheelchair is different. Times are different too.

Something in this country has changed as a result of the terrorists' attack on the United States, September 11, 2001. As a result of our nation's tragedy we can't help but think of all the thousands of people who are hurting, feeling desperate, and struggling with their losses.

Some of the change is good. We as a nation are made up of more helpful people, looking out for those who are in need. Humanitarian deeds have accelerated.

My observation of this helpful spirit first came during a shopping experience, three days after the attack. I went into a small neighborhood grocery store to buy two large bags of ice. My husband, Mark, had just had foot surgery and ice was needed to reduce swelling. On impulse I decided to buy two hot fudge sundaes too. I knew that Mark would enjoy the sundaes much more than the ice.

The clerk behind the counter, Mary, greeted me and took my order. She began to make the sundaes at the soda counter to the right. Soon a woman appeared in line behind me. We struck up a conversation. Mary brought the sundaes to the counter and placed them in a cardboard carrier. I paid for my purchases and asked her for help in order to get the ice and the sundaes into my van. She said that she would be happy to assist.

Instantly the female customer offered to get the bags of ice from the back of the store and carry out my purchase. She told Mary to continue to work at the cash register in order to take the money for her purchases as well as to serve the others that were also standing in line. I thanked the female customer and placed the cardboard carrier with the sundaes on my lap. The female customer went to the back of the store and got the two bags of ice.

With both of our transactions completed, we started to exit the store. Another customer held the door open for us and asked how he could help us. We continued to my van and stowed the ice in the back. I thanked the woman and smiled.

Upon returning home, I announced to Mark that something was different in society today. The difference was noticeable and left a lasting impression on me.

In order to test my hypothesis that the world has changed, I decided to see if people were any different and kinder than usual to me if they didn't know that I was in a wheelchair. The next day as I drove my van, I became keenly aware. Drivers seemed more patient. People let me into traffic. More people yielded when I approached. As I changed lanes, people allowed me adequate distance. People smiled more. People were more courteous and less in a hurry.

Here is a personal analysis. As I am out and about in the community, people appear less stressed and more even keeled. People are less focused on their needs and realize that others have needs too. They seem friendlier. This may be a conscious effort. This was apparent to me as I went to restaurants, the library, the gas station, and rode my bicycle in my neighborhood. As a direct result, there are random acts of kindness displayed throughout the community.

Perhaps people realize that their behaviors, no matter how slight, can make a big difference to another human being. By helping someone else, there is a payoff. It makes us feel better too.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. would like to read your comments about her column and the impact it has made on your life. She also encourages your ideas for future columns. Contact her at: Rosemarie@RosemarieSpeaks.com or 1008 Eastchester Dr., Columbus, OH 43230-6230.

Byline: To book Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. to speak at a conference, contact her at: (614) 471-6100; Rosemarie Speaks. Rosemarie works with organizations and corporations that want to bring out the best in their people, and she demonstrates how to live life with conviction.