Do you ever have a memory that is so distant that it seems like it happened to a different person? It was so out of character for you and the details are so hazy that while you remember it happened, you can’t believe that you did it. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this story before. It is not that it is a secret or that I am ashamed of it, but simply that no circumstance has come up that made it relevant. I took the spring semester of my junior undergraduate year off. I worked and made a little money so that I could go to Europe that summer. I had a semester’s worth of AP credits so it wouldn’t set my college career back. My closest friends were going to spend that semester abroad so I would be away from them and disrupt my college social life anyway. During that semester I learned that one of my favorite jazz musicians was going to perform at the college and I could get in for free with my college ID. It would be a welcome break from work life so I took the bus up for the two-hour ride. Some other friends had arranged for me to flop in an empty dorm room double. The other person in the double was the pregnant girlfriend of somebody (I can’t remember who) who had come to see her boyfriend. I hadn’t met her before, and she was anxious, fearful and depressed about her situation. That first night to cheer her up I suggested an adventure. The college was building a new building that would be the tallest on campus and we could get up to the roof of the unfinished building. We made our way up to the top of the building without too much difficulty. From there we could see the entire campus and much of the small town in which it was located. I remember saying to her once you have been to the highest place around everywhere else was down. I think doing something forbidden took her mind off her situation and cheered her up for at least a while. It may have reminded her of who she was and that her life was far from over. The next evening, I saw my jazz concert and then left to return home. I never saw or heard about her again. I don’t even remember her name. The whole experience was out of character for me. I am introverted and not a rule breaker normally. Befriending a complete stranger and sneaking around unfinished buildings is not my normal mode of operation. However, in retrospect it was a random act of kindness which made someone else feel better.

I don’t know what made me think of this story and I’m not sure why I am even telling it. It has been irrelevant to the rest of my life. I certainly did not intend it as a “humble brag” for a random act of kindness that’s over 50 years old. Perhaps it is a reminder that we are capable of doing things outside our comfort zone. As Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass: “I am large. I contain multitudes.” We probably all do. Don’t be afraid to discover a new side of yourself. Even at 72 I still do things I didn’t realize I was capable of doing.  I still discover new sides of myself (like writing this blog.) Above all be kind to each other. Yeah, I know there are many people who are not but that’s not the point. You are not responsible for them and can control them only to a limited extent. Be in full control of yourself and be the person you wish they were.

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