Carl Wernicke: Kindness Isn't Wasted

Jul 12, 2017

A good day is when you learn something new. Or, as you get older, learn something over again. Sort of like rereading a good book, which is doubly rewarding when you can’t remember what happened from reading it the first time.

Anyway, last week I relearned two things: the value of a library card, and the reassuring fact that there are good people out there.

I keep on one of my keychains a small card from the West Florida Regional Library with a bar code that lets me check out books without needing the full-size card from my wallet. This proved remarkably handy when, as I am wont to do, I put that set of keys on the roof of my wife’s car in the carport. I went on to do whatever chore it was that caused me to momentarily put the keys down, and as is common these days, promptly forgot about the keys once I had accomplished whatever it was I needed to do. And with the way my mind wanders, one thing led to another and I probably ended up doing a number of things I had been meaning to do.

I forgot about the keys so thoroughly that I didn’t realize they were missing until, a few days later, I got a call from the library. It seems that a wandering good Samaritan had found the keys on the street, miles from my house, and being a clever sort, he realized that if he took the keys to the library, they could read the barcode and ID the owner.

So he did, and they could. It was a very nice thing for him to do, and fortunately they had his name and number so I was able to call and thank him for his good deed, which required extra effort.

Meanwhile, all this reinforced for me another lesson. Some people call it karma, or paying it forward, or sowing what you reap. Anyway, I do think you build good will in the world by helping people when you can.

And, therefore, maybe the good deed that returned my keys was part of a chain I helped sustain earlier in the week. A package arrived in the mail to my address, but to people I didn’t know. I started to write “Not at this Address” and stick it back in the mailbox, but something made me call the landlord and ask him if the name might be that of a former tenant. It turns out that the last name did match a former tenant’s, and he still had her phone number.

So I called, and it turned out that the names on the package were her children, and the return address was their uncle, in Georgia. So she came by the house after work and collected the package.

So that made me feel good, and then, days later, a complete stranger did me a good turn. Now, I suspect he would have done it no matter what, but it was satisfying to feel that I had done my part to keep the universe on an even keel.

And, frankly, that’s a pretty good day’s work.