A Random Act of Kindness

April 18, 2012, by Connie Stetson



—For Connie, experiences, big and small, make indelible images—

A few years ago on a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, my husband Lee and I spent a long, hot afternoon ambling and exploring the old colonial part of town. We visited craft stores, museums and art galleries, we walked up and down the cobbled streets, shopping and gawking, eating churros from vendors, listening to street music and doing other touristy type things until we were finally tired, steamy and thirsty.

We started walking back towards our hotel via the Malecon, the ocean side of the street, which boasts an amazing array of public art and loads of families, locals and turistas walking and enjoying the sculptures and the ocean view. Exhausted, we ducked into an upstairs bar with an open balcony, ordered a bucket of Pacificos, some chips and salsa, and sat back to watch the colorful Mexican world drift by. As we settled in, we observed a Balloon Man holding down about a hundred helium balloons trying to hawk them to passersby, and dozens of little kids running back and forth begging their young mothers to buy them. We sat for about ten minutes when Lee excused himself; I thought to go to the bathroom.

When he returned, we focused on watching Balloon Man. All of a sudden, Balloon Man just started handing balloons out to the children one by one. Their mothers were gesturing, saying “No, gracias” and Balloon Man seemed to be explaining that the balloons were free. The little kids were ecstatic, their mothers shaking their heads in disbelief, smiling at their great good luck. When I asked Lee what he thought had happened down there, he just grinned at me, his blue eyes twinkling. He told me that he had run downstairs, across the street, and paid Balloon Man $20.00 to give balloons to the children till the money was gone. We sat there for the next hour, sipping our icy cold beers, me completely in love with my guy, watching and laughing with those children and their moms as they accepted this unexpected gift.

My husband and I are fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place and to have access to extraordinary experiences. We have been blessed with good health, strong bodies and a keen interest in travel and adventure. We have sailed the Caribbean, kayaked around glaciers, zip-lined in Costa Rica, hiked the Great Wall of China, had a bird’s eye view of Mt. Denali and an active volcano (thank you, Gary Smith). I have climbed to the top of Mt. Whitney, backpacked into Haleakala, went to Mississippi with the Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina, walked out of the Sierra high country in the full moon light, rafted down the Colorado River, and most recently, our Cathy and I, took a flying lesson. I tell you this not as a boast, but to be present to it all and to say to anyone who cares how grateful I am.

There are only a handful of truly perfect days in anyone’s life, days when you think, If I left this earth now, I would be leaving in a moment of real happiness. It didn’t take much to make that day in Puerto Vallarta one of those moments, just a simple act of kindness.

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13 Responses to “A Random Act of Kindness”

  1. christie Says:

    A great riff on happiness and gratitude, Connie, and a wonderful bookend to hearing my friend Keri Noble say on her morning drive radio show “Music is the weapon in the war against unhappiness.” Keri is better known outside the Twin Cities as a songwriter and a recording artist. I am feeling a huge amount of happiness and gratitude to two great women who are friends of mine. Lee is a treasure too, and one you richly deserve.

  2. Linda Myers Says:

    Oh dear Connie! This makes me love you and Lee even more! I had a similar experience in Mexico, as well, and as you described, it became a moment of love that I’ll never forget.

    We had taken the bus from Nuevo Vallarta north to Sayulita, a little surfing town to the north. When we exited the bus, I noticed a young mother with a baby slung on her chest selling little handmade toys that were hung from a screen propped up in the dirt. I purchased several for my grandkids, and we then walked to the beach to watch the surfers ply the waves.

    Hours later we trudged back to the bus stop, and there she was again, preparing to board the bus. As we bounced back towards Puerto Vallarta, I observed how fatigued she was, leaning back with eyes closed, opening them only now and then to sooth the baby when he started to fuss. Seeing her devoted mothering made me think about the love my mother had always bestowed on me, and likewise the good mothering that Lloyd was blessed with.

    Our moms had left this earthly plane some years before, but their memories and example always linger around the edge of each day. Wanting to honor them and to give this mother a brief moment of respite from her hard life, I dipped into my wallet, overflowing with money that we would only toss away on a margarita, an ice cream cone, or a silly memento of our trip, and stuffed a $100.00 bill into her hand as we approached our stop. With a whispered, “Te Dios bendiga”, I stepped off the bus with my husband and walked back to our condo.

    We certainly enjoyed the rest of our week as we watched paragliders sail over the Bay of Banderas, sipping an ice-cold cerveza at the edge of the pool, thrilling to the music of the mariachis. In time I may forget those moments, but will never forget the moment of grace on that bus.

  3. Conz Says:

    Oh Linda! Thank you for sharing this story and for how you walk this world. Our community is lucky to have you in it.

  4. Cathy Says:

    These stories bring tears to my eyes. Thank you Connie (and Lee) for your big love and humanity. If we all committed random acts of kindness, big or small, the world would be a happier place. And the gratitude, I hear you sister wife!! How lucky am I to share adventures, flying high in a plane or on the ground, with you! I am a very lucky gal.

  5. Carine Says:

    Great story, Connie. And sometimes all it takes is one big smile to make a stranger’s day. May all who read this blog be inspired to run out and lift someone’s day just by being kind.

  6. roxy Says:

    What I love about this story is that from the huge pool of adventures and memories you can draw from, what was most memorable to you is what you two gave away. THAT’S LIVIN’, baby!

  7. dearpru Says:

    Wow, I was right there on the balcony with you, Connie! Thanks for bringing this moment to life for all of us.

    Just think if every single one of us committed to doing something like this every month (just twelve times a year), how exponentially happiness would grow. And then, what might evolve? World peace? An end to poverty? The 1% paying their fair share in taxes? Who knows…anything might happen.

  8. Thea Swengel Says:

    This post set my imagination off for discovering the little things that I can do to bring about happiness.

  9. Kelli Mason Says:

    Connie,what a wonderful,and gracious thing for Lee to do!!.You are both lucky to have found each other,the fit couldn’t have been better.Both you,and Sheila have a gift in wrighting…maybe a book written by Connie Stetson is in your near future?.Wouldn’t that be an adventure?.Love you,cuz!!!! Kelli.

  10. Mellimel Says:

    The best gifts are the ones given. This is another example of this truth.

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