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Random Acts of Chocolate
I told myself I was going to gift a scrumptious Snickers to the next downtrodden-looking stranger I saw, but as I walked down the street I started to lose my nerve. Who would accept candy from a stranger? Haven't we all been warned enough not to do that? Then I spotted her -- my perfect target. A tired, 60-something woman got off the bus in front of me and started shuffling along, hunched against the cold wind. I took a deep breath and handed her the candy bar. A look of classic-New Yorker-refusal flickered across her face, but then she looked up and realized I wasn't trying to sell her something or grab her purse or worse of all ask for money for Greenpeace. "Here," I said, feeling like an idiot. "It's, ah, a random act of chocolate." (Somewhere at the Mars Candy Company marketing headquarters, copy writers were giving each other high fives.) She looked confused and then smiled very slightly and said, "Okay." I watched her walk away with the candy, triumphant. She had smiled very slightly! She was going to go enjoy a sweet treat, and wonder all night about the stranger who brightened her whole day! Or else she was going to throw it away in the next trash bin (no, wait, maybe she isn't as neurotic as I am.)
I knew right where the bag of M&Ms was going. When my husband got home I handed it to him with some flourish (I am often ridiculed for not having any "good food", a.k.a. sweets, around the house), and said, "A random act of chocolate to brighten your day!" "Huh," he said. "Thanks. I'm trying to stick to my diet though, remember?" Oh right. So was I. Not the point, though! It was an act of kindness! Sweet, chocolately, calorie-filled kindness!
In the end, I realized what had been exciting about my dalliance with "random acts" had been that moment of reaching out to a stranger, which happens so rarely in a big city (or maybe anywhere)—and that the day that had been brightened was mine. It was so fun in a weird way that I've been trying to keep up the habit, whether it's bringing a pound of good coffee to a highly caffeinated friend, or a flower for the babysitter. Random acts of tiny (occasionally diet-busting) pleasures.
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