Saturday, November 24, 2007

An Observation of Kindness

During yesterday's visit in Columbus, Mississippi, to visit family, I went to the movies with Sam and Lynnette. We carefully selected our seats in the theater, the top middle. Two women were sitting in front of us.

After about five minutes, a group of teenagers came in, and started talking about finding eight seats together for their group. The ladies in front of us volunteered to move to the end of the row so that this group could sit together. The teenagers thanked the women, and soon all were seated.

Just before the ladies offered to move, I muttered to Lynnette that I certainly wouldn't move, because I got there early in order to get the seats I wanted. I felt quite self-righteous and smug. But after 24 hours of thinking about it, as hard as I want to justify my actions, I cannot. After observing this random act of kindness, I feel selfish.

Would moving a few seats over ruined my viewing of the movie? Was it more important to stand my ground, defending my seat position? Did my claim on my seat make a difference in anyone's life, except my own? No on all accounts, because those teenagers will not remember the old lady behind them who was gripping the arms of her seat, firmly planted and unmovable. Instead, they will remember the strangers who spoke up and said, "We'll be glad to move for you."

Anne Frank was right - nobody has to wait to improve the world. It starts every moment you are given a chance to make a positive difference. It can happen anywhere, even in a movie theater. All it takes is speaking up and doing, which will always be much more effective in changing this world than just observing.

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