Late last night, I was returning to my car after a long day at work. As I got to the car door, I reached into my pocket for my keys. They weren’t there. I reached into my other pocket. Nope. Back pockets? Nope...hmm...curious. Five minutes later, the entire contents of my pants pockets, shirt pocket, jacket pockets, and computer bag and backpack were splayed out on the trunk of my car...in the dark. Of course my flashlight was in the car. Where were my keys. I went back up to my office and knocked on the door. "Did you guys see my keys?" No keys. I went in and retraced the steps of my day in the building…no luck.
I returned to my car, sat on the trunk, and began to retrace the entire day in my mind…okay…maybe I left my keys in the trunk. Nope. Damn. Maybe in the passenger door? Nope. I then saw that my rear driver's side door wasn't locked. I opened the door and unlocked the driver's door. Maybe I left them in the ignition. Nope. I searched around, nothing.
What I did notice though was that the stuff inside my car looked rearranged a bit. Had somebody been in my car? Yes, somebody had been in my car. A dictionary that I had recently put in the backseat was now in the passenger's seat. "That's weird", I thought. I then noticed that my ipod was missing too, "Damn." What a bummer. What did they do with my keys though? Did they dump them in a garbage can? Do I need to go through the dumpster?
I was about to crawl into the dumpster behind my building but I remembered that people only do this with guns, purses, and empty wallets, not keys. Was this a dumb robber who didn't know that?
It was getting cold, so I got in my car to think about what to do. I picked up the dictionary, just for fun to blindly choose a page and a word, to see if there was a cosmic solution to this. I saw a piece of flowered paper sticking out of it. I pulled it out and it said, “I noticed your keys sticking out of your trunk lock for like over an hour. I put them and your ipod under your floor mat.”
I then started to smile. This person realized I had left my keys in the trunk. This stranger then decided to take some action to keep my car and belongings safe and hide them, but in a place where I would find them. It was a plan that took some thought. But more than that, it took kindness and creativity. For someone to not only decide to be helpful, but to also go out of their way and think it through, lifted my spirits in many ways. After a long day (a long year actually), it re-stoked my belief that there are some very, very cool people in this world.
To whoever performed that creative and thoughtful act of kindness…thank you.
This morning, I was telling this story to some friends, and we then got to talking about acts of kindness and acts of meanness.
My friends have such a nice way of thinking about these sorts of choices we make. One said that it seems to be so much easier to be mean. But, it actually takes so much more energy: emotional, spiritual, and physical. Another friend said that kindness stimulates the Vagus nerve which slows slowing down our heart rates. We all of course needed to verify this as he sometimes makes things up out of thin air. We googled it and discovered a website by Dr. David Hamilton who did some research and posted some links to studies which found that among some obvious beneficial things, being a kind person not only is good for the Vagus nerve and your heart but also slows down the aging process.
So, the next time you find yourself in a situation, especially when driving or looking for parking, where being kind is a possible option, why not give your Vagus nerve a break and give an act of kindness a whirl… for scientific purposes.
David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement, author of Finding the Sweet Spot, and founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile app that guides drivers to the closest available parking spot in real-time...for free. You can follow him on twitter @ParkingGuru.