By our actions, you shall know us. I’m the thoughtful one.

December 1, 2009

It was a moment of pure reaction. No thought process was involved. I simply moved.

This all came about during a visit to a local store when I noticed gravity had exerted its control on an errant shopping trolley, causing it to roll off the sidewalk. While other shoppers ignored this rampaging runaway, I leaped after the cart and returned it to its stand.

I wasn’t concerned that the trolley was going to flatten an unsuspecting toddler or, because it was constructed out of plastic, do any real damage to a parked vehicle. But the trolley would certainly have blocked traffic and caused an inconvenience, and so I took the initiative to ensure this didn’t happen.

I’ve always done things like that. Replaced items that have tumbled from store shelves. Picked up toys and wayward shoes infants have shed. Called out to stop people if I notice they have dropped something, or left their keys or umbrellas on a store counter. Scooped beer bottles out of gutters to take home for my recycling box, lest someone — probably me — find a glass shard in their flattened tire.

One of my more acutely embarrassing memories from high school involves Mrs. Gorsack’s Grade 8 Math class. The old dear had just finished advising her captive audience of impressionable 13-year-olds about our obligation to deposit rubbish in the proper receptacles when I shot my hand up and asked permission, right that very second, to put a wad of paper in the classroom’s bin.

Even as I spoke, I knew I was taking the art of brown-nosing to a new, never-before-achieved height, but I did it anyway.

One day this week, I was putting clothes away in one of the resident’s rooms at the seniors’ home where I work. The elderly gent was sitting on the edge of his bed with an exasperated look on his face. Normally I would offer a cursory greeting and carry on to the next room but, instead, I asked the man if he was OK.

“I need help pulling up my pants,” he said.

I could have begged off. I could have told him I’d flag down a caregiver, that I was merely the laundry dude and my job description did not include helping residents to dress themselves. Instead, I told the fellow to stand and then tugged his underwear and track pants up from where they’d been stuck at the three-quarter position.

On another occasion, I was leaving the property at the end of my shift. As I drove past one of the grapefruit trees, I spotted another of the male residents lying under it. It was a pleasant sunny day, the tree’s branches provided some obvious cooling shade and the man was propped up on one elbow. It looked for all the world as if he was enjoying a welcome spot of spring weather.

I waved. He waved back. I kept going. And then I slowed down. And then I braked.

A little thought kept tugging at my brain. A little voice kept saying, “Hang on, something’s not quite right.”

Maybe it was the fact the man’s walker was standing askew, as if hastily abandoned. Maybe it was the fact that sprawling on the grass, and then getting back up, is not something I could picture this fellow doing at his age and in his condition.

I reversed my car, stopped, got out, approached the man.

“Are you OK?”

“Not really.”

It was the classic case of having fallen and not being able to get back up. Fortunately, he had landed on a number of grapefruit and they had given their pulpy lives to soften the impact. It took a bit of heaving on my behalf, but I was able to heft the man to a standing position, where he could support himself on his walker. After I’d escorted him back inside the building, a caregiver noted that, if not for my efforts, the poor fellow might have lain there for hours, at least until he was missed at dinner.

Why am I relating these stories? Certainly not in the hopes of receiving a congratulatory pat on the back and a hearty “Well done, you!”

I’m not looking for plaudits or kudos. While I will gladly take any karma points such actions may have merited, I’m assuming everyone has accomplished similar acts of kindness in their lives.

Perhaps I’m simply attempting to understand what makes me who I am. Why I do and say certain things. How I react under different circumstances. How my personality is molded by my actions, and vice versa.

Or perhaps I’m just trying to comprehend why the driver we followed on the highway the other day felt obliged to pitch first his pie wrapper and then his empty pop can from his car window when he was finished with them.

It seemed like such a thoughtless, senseless act. What kind of person would litter so blatantly, with so little regard for the environment or his fellow man? Who would be so utterly stupid?

Mrs. Gorsack would have been horrified. I know the feeling.

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