Fishbein: Little Kindnesses in Winter

Seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can be essential to all involved.

by Dan Fishbein | 2/14/17 12:25am

Boy Scouts didn’t teach me much. I remember one “fire safety” talk when my friends and I took turns using lighters to try to set each other on fire. Oh, and we condemned what we saw as the organization’s homophobia, transphobia and ingrained misogyny. But, from all the things that I was supposed to learn but made a joke of on my path to becoming an Eagle Scout, the organization’s slogan will always resonate with me: do a good turn daily.

It is so easy to be negative. I cannot possibly stress this point enough and have written about it in the past. Since just last week, national news has gone from bad to worse. And guess what? We have four more years of the crazed orange man named President Donald Trump to look forward to. I must find a way to be positive amidst all the negativity the world throws at me. The Boy Scouts, through their slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily,” provided me with a way to have a positive feeling every day.

One of the highlights of my past week has been using my excess DBA — does Dartmouth really think I can spend $15 plus a meal swipe on food five days a week? — to buy a good friend of mine coffee and a cupcake from King Arthur Flour. This friend, while she may not know it, has inspired me to be my best and give what I can to help others be their best. I hope that we all can say that we have someone like this in our lives, someone whose presence we can truly appreciate. When I think of what I can do to return the favor to someone like this who has given me so much — someone who has talked to me in moments of need, helped me find a job which segued into a dream internship and always has those sunny vibes you need on a rainy day — I think of the one thing that my mother taught me about how I should act toward others and that one lesson I remember most from Boy Scouts: be kind.

Having the feeling of giving to another person, even if that gift is small and insignificant, can mean a lot. Sure, when buying this friend KAF treats highlighted my week, it clearly was not a great week. It was week five of winter term, so the “Dartmouth Plague” and midterms had caught up with me. Even though I had the flu and am still stressing about an essay, I saw this friend of mine at her job at the circulation desk and knew that she would have to stay on the clock for the next couple of hours on a Friday afternoon, a time that no one wants to work while others are experiencing the outdoors or planning parties. Knowing that I could make a small difference in the life of someone else through a simple act of kindness meant a great deal to me.

Right now, I probably sound like your mother, telling you to remember to share your toys or someone with a huge ego wanting to draw attention to himself, a seemingly insignificant act. The thing is, though, it really does not take that much effort to let someone else know that they matter and that you care about them. It is so easy to brighten someone else’s day just by opening a door, sitting down for a bite to eat or giving out free hugs.

When I bought my friend a cupcake and coffee, a small act in the grand scheme of things, I acted as any friend should act and only did a small thing, perhaps even a selfish one to keep myself from accumulating too much leftover DBA at the end of term. I did feel good about my actions, though, and I knew that the friend that I helped felt good, too — she had a cupcake now, after all. While the world may operate in chaotic and broken ways or send seemingly unconstitutional executive orders hurtling straight at our moral sensibilities, we can find shards of happiness through bringing joy to the people around us. It only takes a smile, or a cupcake, to make a difference.

Imagine that. If everyone shared a positive and meaningful action — a hug, a smiley emoji, some french fries — with another person at this moment right now, the world would immediately become better. We do not have to move mountains. We only have to move pebbles.