Random Acts of Chocolate

The other day I was spending some of my scant time here on Earth moping in an epic line at my local CVS. This store seems to employ about two people, and waiting in line, I could actually feel my life trickling away. Then I saw the display: GET EM. GIVE EM. RANDOM ACTS OF CHOCOLATE scrawled on bins full of candy bars, which were now, suddenly, being equated with acts of kindness. I have to say, as rebranding efforts go, this one seems pretty brilliant. Maybe it was the flickering fluorescent lights, but I was compelled, as if hypnotized, to purchase not one but two chocolate bars. I would get them! I would give them! I would brighten someone's day! After all, I know that performing even the smallest act of kindness can improve my life and, who knows, possibly change the world.

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-looking 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, uh, a random act of chocolate." (Somewhere at the Mars candy company marketing headquarters, copy writers were giving one another high fives.) She looked confused and then smiled very slightly and said, "Okay." I triumphantly watched her walk away with the candy. 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 second candy bar 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," aka sweets, around the house), and said: "A random act of chocolate to brighten your day!" "Huh," he replied. "Thanks. I'm trying to stick to my diet though, remember?" Oh, right. So was I. Not the point, 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" was actually 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 offering a pound of good coffee to a highly caffeinated friend or a flower to the babysitter. Random acts of tiny (occasionally diet-busting) pleasures.

Reasons to be Kind Today


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