A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness

A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness

I have seen many astounding acts of kindness during my twelve years of speaking to over two million college students on more than one thousand college campuses.

Students pitching in to collect money to send a student home to see his mother who was dying of cancer.

A blood drive to aid automobile victims near campus.

Fraternity men who go once a year to the retirement home near their chapter to dance with the older ladies the day before Valentine’s Day.

Who could doubt the generosity and goodness of college students! Despite media reports to the contrary, college students care deeply about others and the world in which they live.

But one event, though small in national stature or international importance, touched my heart. At Bethany College in West Virginia, I was speaking at a dinner for student leaders, with my five-year-old son, J. J., sitting next to me. After twelve years on the road, I now take one of my children—Christa, Samantha, J. J., or Hannah—with me on every trip. I have just gotten tired of being away from them.

We were eating dinner, when my son made a strange reptile-like sound and deposited his dinner on the table at what could have been called, up to that point, a semiformal event. It is hard in life to always think of the other person when you are dealing with your own agenda and personal embarrassment. In this case, however, I was able to “get over myself” and realize that the little guy was in trouble. We caught the subsequent “blasts” in a bucket quickly provided by one of the students and actually finished the meal—though those with a view of my son’s problem passed on dessert!

The big question I then encountered was what to do with his clothes. Being a guy, I reached the conclusion they would be thrown away, justified by the reality that we were traveling and leaving for Cincinnati that night. Suddenly I heard a voice that I now realize belonged to an angel, or perhaps a saint, standing next to me.

She said, “Give me his clothes, and I will wash them during your speech.” She was a student at the dinner, she seemed sincere, and I immediately began to question her sanity. Who takes someone else’s very dirty clothes and washes them, willingly? We all know it is bad enough doing your own clothes or those of someone you know and love.

“You don’t have to do that. I couldn’t ask that of you,” I said.

“You did not ask,” she stated. “And that Tigger sweatshirt is his favorite,” she said.

“How do you know that?”

“Tigger is my favorite, too,” she replied, “and he and I talked about it during dinner.”

I realized then that I had been wrapped up in myself and missed their entire conversation. I knew, too, that I was dealing with an extraordinary young woman who wanted to reach out to someone in need, even though she had never met us before. As she left with the clothes in a trash bag, I turned to her mentor and said, “She is really something. What year is she?” He said, “A freshman, and what you have seen is a regular occurrence with her.”

When something silly happens on a campus now, or even a bad thing takes place, I think of that young woman, armed with J. J.’s clothes in a bag, heading for her residence hall. She gives me hope because I know there are others like her. Students who are good and kind—persons who will be in charge of the world my children will grow up in. That night I was theoretically the teacher . . . but in reality, she was my teacher, and I was her humble student.

That is the beauty of being an educator. If you are open to the possibilities, there is a good chance that we will exchange roles at times and grow together. Dean Robert Schaffer of Indiana University once said, “I have to believe that the student’s life will be better because we have met rather than if we had not, because I know how much richer my life has become because of my students.”

One fall night in Bethany, West Virginia, my life became richer, my purpose empowered, my spirit lifted because of a not-so-random act of kindness by a wonderful college freshman.

Will Keim

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