This weekend I was riding the train at Dulles International Airport in Virginia when a woman noticed my knee brace and untied shoe. She and her husband smiled and sat directly across from me.
“Let me tie your shoe,” she said, patting her leg. “Put your foot up here.”
“Really? You would do that? That would be amazing,” I answered, realizing the shoe had been untied since my adventures getting through security with the metal brace.
I sheepishly placed the dirty sole of my shoe on her knee and she joyfully tied the laces. We chatted and chuckled about my torn meniscus, the result of a month-old epic electric scooter riding injury.
When the train delivered us to the same terminal, we walked together and I made the obvious point. “You know, people simply don't do that kind of thing anymore.”
She smiled humbly and her eyes seemed to agree.
We said goodbye and I asked if we could take a photo for social media. “Of course,” she answered, and her husband captured the memory. Soon they headed to San Juan for a cruise while I flew off to Arkansas for a speaking engagement.
An hour later I sat on a plane, studied the photo, and marveled at the mini-miracle. In a me-first, look-down, screen-driven, what’s-in-it-for-me world, this woman had chosen to look up and act.
How many of us still do this? Take time? Break a barrier? Chat with a stranger? Random acts of kindness for familiar faces are easy, but serving someone we've never met? That’s the real test.
I can almost predict the comments on this column.
“Really dude? This is praiseworthy?”
“Gimme a break. It’s not like she cured cancer.”
“Jason, I literally do this every single day and no one cares.”
Fair enough. But in a selfish, self-absorbed, darkening world, if we don't start recognizing moments of genuine kindness, how will we turn the lights back on?
We exchanged first names and I'm embarrassed to admit that by the time I got settled into my seat and set out to write this, the names were gone. They’re floating somewhere in the air at 30 thousand feet.
Still, I hope my musings reach her. If enough readers agree that even small moments like this are worth honoring, they just might.
Let’s celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day by sharing this story and helping find and identify my new friend. Then, more importantly, let’s all tie a stranger’s proverbial shoe.