On that best portion of a good man’s life. His little, nameless, unremembered, acts. Of kindness and of love. — William Wordsworth
I was out driving on a local highway a couple of years ago, long before the pandemic. It was a crisp September day with Iowa’s fall winds blowing strongly. I was in the far right lane of the four lanes. About four car lengths ahead of me was a man on his moped. As he rode along, a strong breeze shot forth and took the cap right off his head.
The cap was certainly very important to the man as he pulled over to the shoulder farther down the road and stood up on his moped, looking back. Luckily, the cap had landed on the roadway just a little ways ahead of me. With only one car way far behind me, I quickly stopped and put my car in park. I turned on my flashers and quickly ran out to pick up the cap. It was a high-quality sports cap of a state sports team, perhaps the man’s favorite. I ran back to my vehicle and drove down to meet the man at the shoulder.
“I can’t thank you enough,” the man nodded. Then we both went on our way.
The world is moved by such small acts of kindness, as the lines from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” poem recount. I know the poem does state “good man’s,” but it no doubt also refers to good women as well. We all have numerous fond memories of times where we able to perform those small, unremembered good deeds — or where we were the recipients of others’ goodwill. What marks these moments is that they may indeed be nameless. How they prove immeasurable is that they are generally not noticed by many, though they make an indelible mark on the hearts of a few.
Too much time is spent trying to impress others with our accomplishments or actions — whether the school report card or job appraisal — that a moment where we can genuinely act to make another person’s day just a bit better can be one of the most liberating things ever. We can each strive to perform acts of kindness regularly, perhaps on a daily basis. The result need not be personal recognition, but the genuine satisfaction in knowing you have helped another. Each small act is also a participating in the greater goodness and love unfolding in the world each moment.