I’m a relatively upbeat person but recently I’ve been feeling a bit low- external forces are largely to blame for my malaise. The Germans have a single word that captures this sort of emotional experience- weltschmerz - which loosely translates to feelings of melancholy and world-weariness, the result of how the physical world stands in contrast to how you imagine it can or should be.
I work from home and public radio provides a constant and steady voice in the background, which I had found comforting. Now I don’t know where the “Firefighters Rescue Cat Stuck in a Tree” kind-of-segments have gone, but they have been replaced by a constant stream of stories that highlight the very worst elements of human behavior. The line-up a few days ago was predominantly: xenophobic voices from the political sphere (both here and abroad), the Syrian Civil War, the unstoppable refugee crisis, the curtailment of constitutional guarantees in a handful of states… and Miami, being inundated with sea water, is staring to sink. It’s a tough world, but there have to be some narratives that highlight our best selves. So…Today I’d like to share a random act of kindness I witnessed while pulling out of a Trader Joe’s parking lot. It happened a few months ago, but it really touched me and I’d like to tell you what happened, so please indulge me.
Like I said, I was in the parking lot, about to turn onto Colorado Blvd. when I saw a woman (probably in her early 90s) driving a large car. There was a wheelchair icon on her license plate, her reverse lights were on, and she was waiting for an opportunity to pull out of her spot. Naturally I gave her the go-ahead gesture with my hand, because you have to be a real POS to hit the gas pedal in a situation like that…
Several minutes passed, and I was still waiting behind the woman’s car. It became clear to me that she was too scared to make the turn (there are 4 lanes of traffic in each direction at this particular intersection of the boulevard). Drivers behind me started honking their horns, some people started shouting out of their windows, and the whole area was quickly getting backlogged.
I put my car in park, but instead of going up to the elderly woman to see if she was okay (which I now regret), I went to the car behind me. I explained the situation and told that driver we should start making u-turns and back traffic out onto the side street, which she agreed was a good idea.
As I was getting back into my driver’s seat, I saw a burly muscular man (maybe 6’ 3” or 6’ 4” and I’m guessing ex-military from his appearance) walk up to the elderly woman’s car, at which point my heart started racing. I can’t explain my initial reaction, but I started to panic. Was he angry? Was he going to bash her window in? Shoot her? Maybe I’ve watched too many movies - like that Michael Douglas one where he looses it on the highway and goes “postal.”
Anyway, the ex-military guy gently tapped on the old woman’s window. She rolled it down and they spoke for about a minute. Then the man walked across Colorado Boulevard and stopped all four traffic lanes by putting his hands up and waving them above his head (it was really hard to miss him). The traffic came to a halt, a complete stand still. The man then turned in the direction of the elderly woman and gestured for her to start driving forward, and after a few seconds she made the turn and was on her way.
At that point, everyone in the parking lot started clapping and cheering and it wasn’t because we- who had been stuck in the lot for the better part of a ½ hour- were now free to exit. It was because we witnessed something we don’t see enough of: someone helping someone else, in this case a perfect stranger. Everyone in that parking lot witnessed a random act of kindness. And the incredible feeling from that morning’s event stuck with me all day.
Which brings me to this salad…
A friend of mine had been having a tough time and we thought it would be helpful to provide her and her family with a bit of nourishment. We brought over a main dish, some wine, dessert and this salad. I know this small little act meant the world to her because she thanks me (profusely) every single time she sees me, and it’s been going on for weeks!
It’s not that I think I’m such a wonderful person because I do a few nice things, but I do understand how small acts can have a large impact because I was the recipient of this sort of generosity a few years back. During my father’s last year of life, it was the kindness of others that helped me through the worst parts of his illness and subsequent death. There were calls, letters, play date pick-ups, flowers, texts, emails, airport drives, and home cooked meals- nourishing food- for our family. Each of those small gestures meant something so much bigger to me. And now, helping where I can, is my way of paying it forward.
Where am I going with all this? Do something nice for a friend who needs it, or even a perfect stranger. Call up a new parent who seems overwhelmed and offer to give him or her a break. Share. Care. Volunteer. Be kind. Get out there! Do something! The world will be a better place for your efforts. And maybe, just maybe, your act of kindness will be so great that it will make the evening news and provide a nice contrast to those other stories broadcast on our airwaves.
Bar Fausto’s Amazing Farro Salad (Printed with permission)
Thank you Emily, of Bar Fausto, for generously sharing this recipe with me.
Serves 4 people
2 cups cooked Farro
½ Cucumber medium diced
1 cup radishes sliced
1 medium carrot sliced
½ red onion sliced
¼ cup mint chopped
4 cups arugula
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and add ¼ cup (or desired amount) of Sunflower Golden Raisin Vinaigrette.
For Sunflower Golden Raisin Vinaigrette
Yields ½ Gallon Vinaigrette (This will last you a very long time! I halved the recipe below and it was more than enough, with plenty left over.)
2 cups Golden Raisins
2 cups Champagne Vinegar
2 cups Sunflower seeds
¼ cup Sugar
1 cup Lemon Juice
1 cup Shallots Brunoise
1 tablespoon Salt
½ Tablespoon Black Pepper
½ Tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
6 cups Blended oil (I found my bottle Costco.)
In a blender, combine the golden raisins and champagne vinegar. Pulse until raisins chopped up into smaller pieces. Combine all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk to incorporate the flavors. (The vinaigrette will look “broken” and will not emulsify.”)
Store in a container and whisk again when ready to use.