I learned from the Beverly Hills Courier on February 11, 2021, about National Kindness Week (February 15-21), of which I had not been previously aware.
Yet I had already been contemplating my March guest post on the topic of the kindness of strangers, encouraged even more so by Bob Greene’s February 12, 2021, Wall Street Journal article “The Kindness of Strangers Probably Saved a Boy’s Life: Five people decided to intervene in a family matter when they saw a bruised child.”
To summarize that heartwarming article, in a family-style restaurant in Orlando, Florida, a waitress noticed something strange about a family of four – the adult male, adult female and a four-year-girl sat on one side of the table eating and talking. The 11-year-old boy on the other side of the table sat silently with no food. The waitress also noticed bruising near the boy’s eye and a cut above his nose plus more bruising on his lower arm.
As Greene said, she could have done nothing.
“But she couldn’t just let it go. On a piece of paper, in big letters, she wrote: “ARE YOU OK?” She stood behind the table and held the paper up so only the boy, alone on the other side, could see it. He made a motion with his head. She sensed he was afraid. So she wrote another message: “DO YOU NEED HELP?”
“The child nodded yes.
“Ms. Carvalho thus became the first person that night to do the right thing. She went to a phone and called the owner of the restaurant, Rafaela Cabede. She said what had happened. Should she call the police?”
Ultimately the restaurant owner and three other individuals – the 911 dispatcher, the Orlando police officer who arrived, and then another officer with experience in cases of battered and traumatized children – did the right thing. Five people in all did the right thing to rescue this badly abused child.
Why have I spent so much time describing this one example of the kindness of strangers? Because I think that it epitomizes what so many of us fail to do – and what we can commit to doing better in the future.
What is that?
Noticing what is going on around us – whether in person (currently following all Covid safety protocols) or online.
Especially now during the pandemic when the mental health of so many people around the globe has been affected by Covid lockdowns, illness and death, it is important to step up our awareness of the needs of others.
In the pre-Covid days this could be as simple as complimenting a stranger in the elevator on his or her outfit. Or simply holding open a grocery store door for someone laden with grocery bags.
In the current Covid world these opportunities for little acts of kindness to strangers might be harder to find. It requires more awareness of what is going on around us —usually online.
Most of us have probably read about the strangers – teens and adults – who have snagged online vaccination appointments for seniors. What a wonderful example of kindness to strangers ONLINE!
(As you may know, I am the co-founder of the free nonfiction Holocaust theater project www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com to combat anti-Semitism and hate. And I was blown away when the German high school history teacher Amos Kraemer – after “meeting” me online via a sci fi Zoom meeting – offered to pay for a professional translation of the THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE play into German.)
Those of us who are writers may have an easy way to undertake kindness to strangers – simply connecting online to a stranger who may ask a question that we can answer or wishing someone “Happy Birthday.” Whatever it is – we need to commit to spending a few minutes each day extending kindness to strangers.
And, of course, if we are the recipient of kindness from a stranger, we need to express gratitude, perhaps by paying it forward.
Wishing you all well and safe!
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a screenwriter, playwright and book author in Los Angeles. She is the co-founder of the free nonfiction Holocaust theater project www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com to combat anti-Semitism and hate. The play is also available at www.SchritteInDenAbgrund.com in a professional German translation.