I’m sure you all remember the late comedian George Carlin. One of his comedy bits really hit home with me. It’s  the one about people having too much stuff. He made fun of the fact that many of us have so many clothes we don’t wear most of them and have acquired so much other “stuff” in our lifetime we have to pay for storage containers to house it. Sound familiar? How many of us are spending money on storage for objects not worth the rent we pay to store them? After our last move, my wife and I finally got it down to one smaller storage space and that’s now a work in progress.

The point is, this is our retired life. A time to keep it simple and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Having too much stuff to manage can cause lots of stress and make us miserable. Of course there are the possessions that have sentimental value and we should pass those things along to loved ones. It’s all the other things we’ve acquired and will really never use that create a problem. Let’s all take a vow right now: Give the stuff away or throw it away. There is somebody out there right now that could really use and appreciate your stored items. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better and save a few dollars in the process.

After taking some time off over the last few weeks, circumstances provided me with several opportunities to observe people in a variety of interesting situations.

My wife Trisha and I have been traveling with my parents, both of whom are in their eighties. During the trip my father took a tumble and encountered some additional medical difficulties. The entire trip required the use of walkers and a wheelchair. Dad’s medical situation caused him to be very weak and he needed constant help to get around. This meant extra time and caution in every situation, be it restaurants, hotels, airplanes and airports.

Naturally, our tension level was increased, but I must report we were the beneficiaries of dozens of acts of random kindness during our travels. In one case we were loaned a walker to help Dad get around. In every restaurant we visited, the staff took extra time to be helpful and considerate. At the airports (we were in several), the people transporting both my parents in wheel chairs could not have been more helpful. On our various flights, the flight crews went out of their way to accommodate our special needs. It was quite reassuring to receive such wonderful treatment from, in most cases, total strangers.

You may have seen the recent commercial on television in which one person does something fairly insignificant but nice for a stranger. In turn, that stranger then does something for another, and so on. I know I have always tried to be helpful to people whenever the situation arises. Its not that I’m so special, it’s just the way I was brought up by my parents. But during the course of this trip in which I found myself needing assistance, I also found myself going farther out of my way to help total strangers. I wasn’t diving on hand granades to protect people or anything heroic, but things like walking longer distances if I saw someone who might need help opening a door. In driving I found myself giving people more room to change lanes in front of me. I saw a lady at the airport leave a small bag at the counter and quickly went to make sure she didn’t leave it behind. Not superhero stuff, but I’m sure my small efforts were appreciated.

The bottom line in this little tale is that the random acts of kindness shown my family by others seemed to sharpen my sensitivity to the plight of my fellow human beings. I was truely grateful for their consideration and, in kind, wanted to return the favor. My mood, while greatly concerned over my parents well being, was lightened and I felt a sense of positiveness in an otherwise stressful time.

If we so choose, we can easily find something negative in every situation. There are rude and thoughtless people everywhere. Life at best is difficult. But there are also those people such as the lady sitting near the rest room on our last flight. After walking my father through the plane, he became very tired. This nice lady offered to stand and let my father sit and rest in her seat. A total stranger and a random act of kindness.

John Parker