Daily Archives: September 1, 2010

The Good Deed Hall of Shame

Ever have the urge to perform an act of kindness, but feel too embarrassed to go for it?

It happens to me all the time.

When you’re walking behind a stranger whose shirt tag is sticking out, don’t you just want to reach out and tuck it back in for them? (Note to reader: I’d certainly want you to do that for me!) But, like I was taught in kindergarten, I invariably keep my hands to myself. Or occasionally I’m tempted to catch a fellow transit rider’s attention and tell her just how very flattering that fuchsia blouse is on her. But even though a comment like that directed at me would make my day, I don’t have the nerve to go through with it.

Case in point: I’m taking my brisk morning walk through the neighbourhood yesterday, a daily ritual that jump-starts my work shift and reminds my circulatory system I have a brain that could use nourishing. My iPod is playing full-blast. It’s yard-waste pickup day and the streets are lined with buckets of mulberry branches and baskets of crab grass.

I notice one pail has fallen over and someone’s yard trimmings are half-spilled.

Do I stop and pick it up? There’s the question. I want to, but I feel bashful. People could look out their windows at me. The idea is somehow humiliating. So, I take the only dignified action possible. I pretend I don’t see anything out of order and I walk on.

But then I realize it would only take a second. And if someone notices, should I really care? Remember that Cambridge University research about elevation, about how watching a good deed makes you do a good deed?

Besides, I’ve got Chaka Khan in my ear buds emphatically telling me that I’m every woman. Or maybe it’s my exercise-induced endorphins talking. Anyway, two driveways later I stop in my tracks, turn around and retrace my steps. I pick up the bucket and set it right. Then I’m back on my way. There, Ms. Khan, you happy?

Some acts of kindness take us out of our comfort zones. What other examples of good deeds do you think we need to liberate from the hall of shame? Leave a comment.