I’d like to think of myself as a kind person. Sure, I get a little cranky when I can’t find the jar of salsa in the fridge because some goofball hid it behind the pickles. I do become a bit petulant when the senseless voting populace eliminates my favorite singer from American Idol. And I have been known to be somewhat snappish when the self-consumed lawn mower gasoline can has the audacity of going empty on me.
But, then again, I do enjoy doing nice things for people. For example, I promised my wife to never do the laundry. I showed my grandkids how to catch food in their mouths. And I once actually let a car merge into my lane on Randall Road.
Be that as it may, I guess I could do better. So, with the best of intentions and the least of experience, I set out to make this world a kinder place.
First of all, I dismissed the idea of committing “random acts of kindness.” Nope, my actions would in no way be random. They would be planned and methodical. My benevolence and compassion would strike unsuspecting victims like a King Cobra after a rat. Geesh, I’m feeling kinder already.
I decided to begin my kindly quest the next day. I would start with my wife and my kindliness would ripple into the world like a giant tsunami of love. I followed her around the house the whole morning, making multiple offers of assistance.
“Hey, honey, need some help making the bread?
“No, Michael, I’m doing fine.”
“Want me to fold the laundry? I can dust your Roseville pottery collection. Need the furniture rearranged?”
“Thanks so much, Michael, you are so kind, but I have an idea. Why don’t you go somewhere and be kind to someone else for a while?”
My plan was working. With my home now filled with kindness, it was time to reach out and touch other people. I jumped in the car and drove to Jewel. I was sure I’d find plenty of opportunities there to make the world a kinder and gentler place. And, boy, was I right.
Even before I got into the store, I was filling the parking lot with kindness. I happily yielded to the weirdo person who was doggedly driving sideways across the rows of parking aisles. As I smiled and waved him on, he enthusiastically gave me a gesture that I believe indicated he was looking for the middle aisle. So far, so good.
Inside the store, I grabbed a shopping cart and started meandering. In the cereal aisle I freely forgave the shopper who viciously cut me off in order to snag a box of Lucky Charms. At the corner of beer and wine I merely winced when an old lady rear-ended me as she scored a mini-keg of Heineken.
I figured I should buy something, so I grabbed a box of Twinkies and headed to the checkout. I just stood there smiling, letting people cut in front of me. I even recommended the issue of The National Enquirer that positively proved that Oprah is an alien.
When I finally left, I felt so good. I was sure I had changed the world with my kindness. I couldn’t wait for the 10 o’clock news to see how much better everything was.
But, alas, everything was the same. I was so sure the old Heineken lady would have at least paid it forward by now and maybe they’d announce that assault with a deadly shopping cart had disappeared from our society, but no such proclamation.
But there was good news. My wife seemed a lot happier. Especially when I told her my kindness campaign was over. Hmmm. Maybe today I’ll change the world with something else. Anyone up for some random acts of humor?
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Here’s a random act of humor for you: Two fish are in a tank. One turns to the other and asks, “Do you know how to drive this thing?” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.