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Random acts of kindness can go a long way

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Elizabeth Clay
  • 860 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Have you ever been complimented at work for your excellence? Did it make you feel appreciated? Have you ever received a little sticky note on your desk with a smiley face on it? Did it make you smile? Have you ever been treated to a free lunch by a friend just because? Did it make you feel grateful? Have you ever received a birthday card in the mail? Did it make you feel special?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you have experienced a random act of kindness, a selfless act performed by someone wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.

Random acts of kindness don't have to be huge, well-thought-out celebrations or events. They can be as simple as smiling at a passerby. But the one thing that an act of kindness does require is for it to be given from the heart without expecting anything in return except the possibility that you've made someone's day better.

As Airmen in the United States Air Force, since we are always in the public eye, we need to pay special attention to the way we act toward others. In a way, I think more is expected of us because we wear the uniform and that makes it even more important to ensure we stay professional, respectful, do the right thing and continue to hold ourselves to the high standards that others expect from us.

Never underestimate the impact of a single act of kindness. Kindness is contagious and the benefits can go a long way. The person you helped has now benefited from what you did for them and in return might do something nice for someone else and so on. Before you know it, the whole world is a better place.

I'd like to share a story about an act of kindness that was simple and random, yet so meaningful. A friend of mine had a permanent change of station and, as a going away gift, I gave him a copy of my favorite leadership book. In it, on a bookmark, I wrote a short note wishing him well in his career.

As he was traveling to England, my friend accidentally left the book in the seat pocket in front of his seat after his flight landed in Denver. Then, as the plane was serviced, one of the aircraft mechanics found the book in the seat pocket. He took the item with him so he could personally return it to the owner.

He noticed that there was no name or address in the book except for the information on the bookmark. However, in the book was a bulletin from a small, local church. Thankfully, on the bulletin was the church contact information. The mechanic called the number on the bulletin and spoke to the pastor. They both admitted it would be a long shot to find the person, but they agreed to take the chance anyway.

The mechanic sent the items to the church office and the pastor received the package. Because the only connection was military rank and the last name on the bookmark, the pastor just happened to ask the first military person that he saw at church the next Sunday. When the pastor showed him the book, he didn't recognize the recipient's name, but he did know a Maj. Clay on base.

The Airman took the book in hopes of finding me. When he did find me to show me the book and tell me the story, I couldn't believe how he ended up with it. I immediately took it and sent it back to my friend.

So, in the end, my friend's book came full circle from Vacaville to Denver back to Vacaville and finally home to the rightful owner in England. It meant so much to my friend that someone took the time to act on a hunch and try to get his book back to him.

I hope you find this story as surprising and inspiring as I do. It makes me really appreciate the influence that just one person can have in shaping the chain of events of a particular situation. It just goes to show you that a simple random act of kindness, such as returning something that was lost, can literally go a long way and, in this case, around the world.