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I like your hat

I’m going to share some words I have shared previously. They are even more relevant in this cautiously post-pandemic and politically and painfully divisive circumstance we find ourselves in at the present time.

The excerpt below comes from the work of poet Danusha Laméris:

“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. ‘Don’t die,’ we are saying.

“And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.

“We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.

“We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, ‘Here, have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead — you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’”

This author’s writing prompts me to think more completely about the importance of “small kindnesses” in our lives. Those simple things we do, without words or with just a few words, to affirm someone or celebrate them.

A small kindness is sometimes defined as “an unexpected act of charity or helpfulness.” That description seems wanting, don’t you think? If small acts of kindness were given their due, profiled more publicly and actively encouraged, do you think they might change the ways of our world?

I discovered a visual blog years ago (https://positivepsychology.com/acts-of-kindness) that, at that time, captured acts of small kindness in photographs. There was a compelling photo of a man stopped on a street in a country that may be India taking off his sandals to give them to a homeless girl, and another of a helmeted motorcyclist in what could be Great Britain. His bike is parked nearby while he assists an elderly woman across a busy intersection.

There’s a well-captured moment in a grocery store, somewhere in the world, where a clerk kneels down to tie the shoelace of an aged shopper.

My favorite might be the picture of a plastic bin full of tennis balls in a dog park, possibly here in the United States. There’s a sign above it that says, “In loving memory of Phoebe,” followed by words encouraging dog owners to take a ball and throw it enthusiastically for their own dogs — in recognition of their “loyalty and unconditional love.”

The caption below one of those photos reads, “Don’t wait for other people to be friendly, show them how.”

Go ahead, you first, I’m right behind you. And by the way, I like your hat.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator and the author of “How Gray is My Valley: Enlightened Observations About Being Old.” Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.