By BILL SHARKEY III
Martinez News-Gazette Columnist
ACTS OF KINDNESS are universal, but not necessarily rampant! However, we experience them daily, readily recognized, or not. Some are obvious. Some we take for granted, like someone holding a door for us. Was that kindness or courtesy? Is there a difference?
How about someone allowing you to push your basket ahead of them in the checkout line? Or, allowing you to go through an intersection first, even if you don’t have the right of way? Or, gesturing to you to go first through an open doorway, or onto an escalator? How about letting you take the last piece of fried chicken off the serving plate? Helping someone on with their coat? Sending a ‘get well’ card to a friend who is not feeling well? A phone call to let someone know you are thinking of them? Helping your neighbor with his garbage cans? Taking your ailing or limited neighbor’s newspaper up to his porch? Taking a step back to allow someone with a cane to pass more easily? Assisting someone load groceries when it appears they are struggling?
The world is ‘loaded’ with good people who do good things daily. Is it because they are naturally kind, or did their upbringing provide guidance from caring parents? Did they also learn courtesy, or is it a natural built-in trait?
A very favorite TV commercial for me is the series by Dignity Health on kindness. The best is the driver stopping on a highway to catch and lift a beautiful little colt over the highway barrier into the pasture and a very happy return to its mother. This old horse person grades him very high.
An incident this past week brought these thoughts to my mind, and a desire to talk about it. As Jeanne and I spend so many days out and about, we observe people we see in the public in a variety of situations.
As I have mentioned before, my position was hiring employees at Shell’s refinery for more than 20 years, always hoping I had made the right choices after testing, interviews, etc. We see people in many scenarios. Without realizing what was going on in my mind, ‘we’ tended to ‘grade’ folks who we have encountered face-to-face. So many times over the past since I retired 27 years ago, I will tell Jeanne, “I’d like to have that person working for me because of the service and attitude exhibited, including did he/she appear to really like their job? We do find many who make ‘the grade’. Then others?!? Wish I could provide guidance for those who could be successful and more valuable with some sessions to enhance their opportunities. No big deal! Perhaps just pointing out deficiencies not realized.
This past week Jeanne and I attended an annual event at the Claremont in Berkeley. It’s always a lovely dinner as a prelude to the annual Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Lecture Series, a two-evening lecture by an outstanding person in public life, quite often a distinguished military leader, or an author or political figure selected by the students of the Naval ROTC program at UC Berkeley. This year’s lecturer is Admiral Dennis Blaie, retired Commander in Chief of the U. S. Pacific Command, who spoke for a few minutes on the general situation we face in the world today, and then responded to questions from guests. Two formal lectures followed Wednesday and Thursday at the International House.
A personal experience as the recipient of kindness occurred at the Claremont on Tuesday evening bringing this topic to mind.
We, and another couple from Martinez, arrived before the reception and spent a half hour or more in the cocktail lounge overlooking the lovely Bay Area and its lights. Found a good friend who we hadn’t seen for several years, adding to the enjoyment of the evening. During our time in the lounge we were served by a happy, smiling lady who, as I say, “I would like to have her working for me.
Question: why am I discussing kindness and courtesy in this Column 1?
When the call came for diners to take their places in the banquet room, our group of four, plus our friend, rose from their comfortable chairs and headed for the banquet room. I, being slower and seated in a lower chair making it more difficult to get up and headed out. Left on my own as my group headed away chatting happily, it became apparent to our wonderful cocktail server that this ‘old dude’ might need some help. As I had made about three attempts to get up out of the low, but comfortable chair, I saw my ‘new friend’ watching my efforts. At that point I told her I guess I could use some help. The lovely lady with the lovely smile came over, gave me her hand, and the bit of leverage I needed to stand up.
As I stood up and had balance, we were still holding hands for a few moments. There was something passing between a helper and someone who required some help. I thanked her for the ‘lift’ as we held hands. She said, “I hesitated asking if you needed some help. I did not want to offend you.” I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, let go of her hand and headed to the banquet room with a warm feeling. I believe we both felt something fine had just happened.
Question: Was that a moment of kindness, or was it professional courtesy? I choose to believe it was a moment of kindness. A special moment between a senior citizen who needed help, and a lovely 40ish African American lady who saw a chance to be helpful. I think we both benefitted by it. A gracious lady of color helping an old white guy.
End of story. But one of those experiences which sticks with you.
DISCUSSING the chaotic fiasco in our nation’s capital would be a downer after my discussion of last Tuesday evening. However…
With the event of the day back there being the latest member of the administration bailing out, it appears that the rat’s nest is becoming less occupied…and less capable of dealing with a nation’s business as nothing is being accomplished. A terrible situation which, some have said, if we survive, will take untold years to recover. It looks like the key word is ‘survive’. Damn scary thought!!
Hope you saw our national embarrassment holding a press conference with the Prime Minister of Sweden this week after “very successful meetings.” In answer to a reporter’s question regarding the personnel situation in the White House, the Oval Office tenant responded by telling the world how good things are there. “The White House is filled with energy.” “I can pick from the top 10 people in any field to fill jobs.” “People love working in the White House.” “Everyone wants a piece of the Oval Office,” (whatever that means!)
As he was doing his song and dance next to the distinguished Swedish Prime Minister, who spoke beautiful English, his Economic Advisor bailed out…finished!!! Guess if you don’t take economic advice, you don’t need some appointee just twiddling his thumbs? However, as we heard that same day, “I can pick from the top 10 people in any field.” But, earlier we heard a comment from someone that the White House is like the old East Berlin…people are trying to get out faster than getting in. The past 15 months or so would hardly be encouraging for someone looking for a steady position under the conditions we’ve seen.
REMEMBER the efforts to bring the Vic Stewart rail car to Martinez. Please help with $$$$ to the Martinez Historical Society so we can get that move made ASAP. Should be a great addition to our town. A check to the Society at 1005 Escobar Street will be happily received.
CHEERS to the weather guessers for the rain they brought to us. Yaaay!! However, don’t slack off, Guys. A long way to go as we all continue to think conservation. Maybe hard to convince ourselves right now, but a dry season is coming soon. Then we’ll get serious? Too late?