It happens to all of us. We do a kindness for someone then never think of it again.
But it isn’t forgotten by the person who received the kindness.
Sometimes, many years down the road, you’ll run into that person who will say, “I’ll never forget the time that you…” It really has a way of making your day.
The opposite happened recently.
I answered my office phone and heard an angry voice. This wasn’t citified mean. This was mountain mean. Civility and manners mean little when mountain folks get riled. “Ma’am, you sound angry. Have I offended you?”
The person had purchased a book from my website weeks earlier and it hadn’t been received. I try being punctual in getting out orders so I knew the book had either been lost in the mail, or I hadn’t received notification. It turned out to be the latter.
I quickly resolved the issue but, frankly, it saddened my day. Then, something happened that reminded me when another stranger reached out.
This was 13 years ago. My column ran for many years in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And though I did not know him, he was managing editor. Humbly, apologetically, he began to ask for a favor. His sister, 47, lay dying of cancer. She would never leave the hospital.
“She is the biggest Darrell Waltrip fan. She can’t wait to watch him on Fox Sports.” He then asked if I could get Darrell to send a note to her. He gave me the hospital name and room number.
“I’ll try,” I replied reluctantly. I knew that Darrell had little time at home and it would take a Herculean effort to pull it off.
Immediately, I called the Waltrip house. Stevie, one of my best friends, answered. I explained and she wrote down the info.
“I’ll try,” she replied, also reluctantly. It doesn’t seem like much time but these things can take a half-hour or more, which is a lot when things are piled head-high.
Days later, the editor wrote me an excited, incredible email. Darrell Waltrip had done more than send a card. He picked up the phone and called the woman’s hospital room.
It is impossible to express the joy she had for the last two weeks of her life but she talked endlessly of her 15-minute chat with Darrell and how he had prayed for her. She walked into eternity with a big smile on her face.
Her brother wrote me three years ago to remind me of the story and reassured me of his family’s continued gratitude.
On the day that the mountain woman had been angry, I decided to make a call of my own. Darrell Waltrip answered. I reminded him of the story and said, “We all get beat up daily. I thought you should be reminded of a beautiful kindness you once gave.”
He chuckled. “You have made my Friday. I’m smiling all over because I needed this bit of cheer.”
A month earlier, I’d been speaking at Rotary in Carrollton, where this column has run for over 15 years. When I ended, I asked for questions. A nicely-dressed, kindfaced man stood and said, “This is more of a thank you than a question.”
He said that in 1991, he was trying to make it as a racer. We were in Atlanta for the NASCAR race and I was sitting on the front pit wall chatting and laughing with Richard Petty. The young driver sat down near us.
“You turned away from Petty the King and started talking to me. You encouraged me in my racing. You will never know what it meant that you chose to talk to me rather than Petty. You made me feel important.
I’m not a member of this club but I came today to tell you that.”
Kindnesses in such a mean world; we need them now and we also need to be reminded of kindnesses then.
Ronda Rich is the bestselling author of “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Visit www. rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.