We may never know how our acts of kindness impact others.  There were acts of kindness I received over the years that served as stepping stones for my very survival.  In recent years, I’ve contacted and thanked those I could find.  A few were in my life for years, others only moments.  Just a few minutes of kindness from one stranger many years ago managed to make a permanent impression on me. 

Immediate confusion hit me when I woke up.  My five-year old brain was having trouble remembering the strange room.  The view out the tiny porthole revealed ‘big water’ outside.  There wasn’t anyone else in the room with me and I could feel my stomach rising to my throat.

Slowly, I remembered boarding the ferry with my parents on our way to Juneau to visit their friends.  As I climbed down the bunk ladder, I wondered what to do.  Because of previous incidents with mom and dad, it occurred to me they might have left me for real this time.  I felt tiny, alone and frightened.

It was a distressing dilemma.  If my parents hadn’t really left me for good, I’d get in big trouble for leaving the room.  But, if they were really gone, what would happen to me?  The fear of getting in trouble was agonizing, but the fear of being alone prevailed.

I hesitated a moment before opening the door to look outside.  A hallway led to a man sitting behind a desk.  Relief flooded me; at least I wasn’t entirely alone on this boat.

It occurred to me I shouldn’t say too much to him.  Just in case mom and dad were still around, I’d better not get them in trouble.  I remember thinking of a solution to my quandary and feeling quite clever.  I put my shoes on with the laces purposely left untied.  When I got to his desk, I asked for help tying them.  In my child’s mind, this was the perfect plan to garner the attention I needed without exposing my situation.

He nicely obliged tying my shoes while making conversation with me.  I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember feeling safe and cared for.  This was a novelty for me.  I actually felt like I mattered to someone.  All too soon, though, he had to call someone to find my parents.  They were, of course, in the bar.

While it may have been the end of a happy moment, it was the beginning of a lifetime appreciation for kindness.  Such a seemingly small act laid a foundation for me.  I remain grateful for the example he set and try my best to pay it forward.

How about you?  What acts of kindness have you given or received?  I’d love to hear your story.