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A little kindness goes a long way

Back in my hometown of Ashland for a family reunion over Labor Day weekend, I was standing in line at the Family Dollar with supplies for the picnic, phone in-hand and probably far more self-absorbed than I should have been.

Had I been paying more attention I would’ve noticed the lady in front of me was clearly going through a difficult time. Her shaking hands and red eyes were tell-tale signs her emotions were raw.

Only when she spoke to me did I really open my eyes.

“I want to pay for his as well,” she said to me and the cashier at the same time.

“What? No, no, that won’t be necessary,” I said, coming out of my own little bubble.

“No, I really want to do this,” she said with a sense of conviction that told me protesting any more was futile. “Have you heard of RACK?”

“Yes,” I responded, silently recalling some of the details of the 21-year-old who was killed in a car accident in May 2017. Friends and family sparked a local — and then viral — movement to honor his memory and his spirit through “Random Acts of Cody Kindness.”

“Cody was my son. It has been a tough day,” she said. “I really want to do this.”

I agreed and allowed her to pay for my $13 in purchases, thanking her profusely but knowing that my words would do little to ease the pain

“I tell you what,” I said to the cashier. “Here is what I would have spent. Just hang onto it and apply it to the next person‘s bill.”

I could see the cashier was moved by the whole exchange and, without a doubt, would do the right thing.

I left the store and grabbed a bag of ice. As I was preparing our cooler, the man getting in the car next to me looked over with a warm smile.

“Was that you? That paid for my stuff?” he asked.

“I was just paying it forward.” I replied. “The lady in front of me initiated it in honor of her son.”

“Well, I just want you to know that it meant a lot and really helped me out,” he said. “I’m on disability right now and my wife has been sick. So, this really makes a difference.”

I shook his hand and wished him the best before heading back into the store to get more ice. I overheard the cashier having a conversation with the gentleman in line in front of me who took a similar approach and donated what he would have spent.

“This may go on all day,” the cashier said with a smile.

Only then did I learn that the gentleman who thanked me so profusely and said the generosity had made a difference had bought less than $4 worth of items.

This is far from just an eastern Kentucky thing. The RACK initiative has been in all 50 states and nearly 100 countries. The Facebook group has more than 100,000 members.

Initiatives like this go on everywhere and I’m sure Jessamine County has had its share as well. Some get attention and some do not. And that is OK, because the greater good is still served.

It is never too late to start being kind, in Cody’s memory or to honor another kindred spirit.

Sometimes it seems like we live in a jaded and cynical world, but tiny acts like this proves people do care.

Even the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact on someone’s life.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at mike.caldwell@jessaminejournal.com.