We were in Vegas, under a two-story Buddha, eating velvety sea bass. Every hour, water sprayed several stories into the air at the Bellagio fountain, people lined up all around to watch the show. An excess of water in the desert, smoke in buildings stinging my eyes, people spending, squandering, losing, and winning all at once.
Then my sister-in-law told me about a remarkable thing my brother did.
In the St. Louis airport, a popular hub for U.S. soldiers, four Army guys walked into a cafe. The entire population already there, eating, talking, waiting for flights to their destinations, stood and applauded.
My brother approached the cashier and quietly paid for the four soldiers’ meals. Then he left, not wanting the credit or the attention, just to show silent gratitude for everything they risk every day to protect our freedoms and our lives.
In the context of the week I’m finishing, a story like this reminds me of all the good in the world. He offered a generous gesture anonymously, just to give to another, not for credit, not for attention, not for kudos. Because it was the right thing to do. Because showing we care about another is the greatest gift we can give.
Some people profess to follow certain values and then act in complete conflict with those same values, upon which they’ve built careers and reputations. While others don’t waste their time talking about what they believe and what everyone else should do, say, follow – they just live their ideals, quietly and consistently. And a life is built.
I told my children about my brother’s random act of kindness. “The highest level of giving is one where you do it anonymously,” I told them. “It feels so good to not get that recognition, just to know you made someone else’s life better.” It’s about them, not you. All of life really is.
And when the opposite happens, and a person flings their bad day/year/life at you, it’s important to remember that same idea. It’s them, not you.
Except that even bad behavior can be a wonderful gift. A reminder to slow down, to consider what you’re doing, to revise your approach. When another person yells out of frustration and fear, your silence screams louder.
Don’t question your worth. Don’t let a bruise on the side of an apple fool you into thinking that the entire fruit isn’t sweet, crispy and worth a bite.