By Brian Benefield
[This article is the latest installment in the series Cobb Cuisine, Culture and Community by Brian Benefield, previously called Second Helpings]
How are everyone’s resolutions going so far? I don’t make cockamamie self-promises because they usually don’t work. My wife, Cecilie, continues to inspire me in my writing and everyday life. This new year, she had the idea of attempting to do one good deed each day for others and, often, a complete stranger. Now, this isn’t a new concept by any means. But rather than clog up the gym with a new membership in January and eat salad twelve times a day, why not help another living soul if you can?
I see a small sign in my neighbor’s yard when I walk our dog, Miss Pickles, around the block, and it reads One Race, Human. It has a very impactful image of a face with various hairstyles, skin tones, and eye colors representing all of us. Every time I see that sign, it gives me pause and think that there’s no better way to be fulfilled than to do a good deed for another human being. My father, who I lost to suicide at the age of thirteen, told me once, “do things for others and don’t expect a thank you. Just do it because it’s right.” I don’t remember many things he told me, but that will always stick with me.
My wife could get up in front of a crowd of a thousand people and deliver an unscripted speech without breaking a sweat, whereas I would most likely pass out and need CPR to be revived in the same situation. To be uncomfortable is to grow and change. When a seed is planted in the ground, it struggles in the dirt, amongst rocks and sticks, but the seedling still manages to burst forth to the surface and into the sunlight. We flourish and thrive much like the seed when we are out of our comfort zone.
A small act of kindness can have a trickle-down effect, and you may brighten a person’s outlook that, unbeknownst to you, is having an awful day. Compliment someone, buy their coffee, or better yet, breakfast. Be sneaky if you have to; don’t let them know you did it. They’ll leave the restaurant not having to pay their tab and wonder if there’s a universal life force for good out there. And there is.
My wife recently observed a well-dressed older gentleman in the local gourmet donut shop who appeared as excited as a six-year-old waiting for the ice cream truck to turn onto his street. He comes in periodically to see if his favorite circular confectionary delight is available, a cinnamon toast donut. And it was. Cecilie told me she had never seen a grown man so excited about this particular sweet treat and told him, “I want to buy your donuts.” He was taken aback and asked her name, to which she replied, “It’s Cecilie, like the man’s name Cecil, but with an i.e. added to the end.” He said, “my great-aunt was named Cecilie after her father, Cecil, and I will light a candle for you at church today.” My wife’s jaw dropped at the bizarre coincidence, and she knew this wasn’t just a chance encounter but a fortuitous one.
Everyday moments and interactions that may seem small at the time when you can add value to someone else’s life are where significant shifts can occur in the world, even if it’s just in your small world. I am not as good at doing these kindly acts as my wife, but I vow to improve. And that’s all we can do, is try to be a better person than we were yesterday. How can you add value to another’s life today? Do a selfless act for a friend, family member, or even a stranger, and see how it makes you feel. It can really put humanity back into the human.