Sunday, July 17, 2022

Acts of kindness can soften the blow of a rotten day

It’s time again to ask you to share moments of kindness you’ve experienced. Let me start by sharing my own recent experience.


The Thursday after this year’s July 4 Monday holiday, I was running an errand to look for an inexpensive desk chair for someone. None of the local stores had any in stock. Instead, I decided to check to see if the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells donated items, had any in stock. I made the drive, parked in the lot and looked around the store, but I didn’t find any office chairs.


When I got back into my 16-year-old truck that had just passed state inspection the week before, I turned the key in the ignition and absolutely nothing happened. I kept the hood up so AAA road assistance could find me in the ReStore parking lot. One of the volunteer workers at ReStore came out to tell me I could wait in the air-conditioned store if it got too hot outside.


Over the course of the 45 minutes or so it took the first AAA person to arrive, three different customers saw my hood up and offered to give me a jump if I needed one. I thanked them but told them AAA was on its way, which it was. When its representative arrived, it became clear it was not a battery problem, since the battery seemed fine.


“Likely a starter issue,” the AAA rep said. So he called for a tow truck and I called the service that had worked on the truck in the past to make sure we could tow the truck to its lot.


“You can bring it in, but we might not be able to get to it until next week,” the receptionist told me, pointing out how busy they were after the July 4 weekend.


Two hours later the tow truck arrived, brought the truck to the auto service lot and dropped it off. The manager of the service took my information and then walked out to the truck to take a look and listen with one of his mechanics.


“If all it is is your starter, we’ll try to fit it in this week,” the manager told me.


The following morning, I got a call letting me know the problem was a corroded wire to the starter rather than the starter itself. They also changed out the terminals on my battery, which showed some corrosion. Parts ran about $36 plus a couple hours of labor.


Those several hours of inconvenience I hadn’t anticipated included several moments of people showing genuine kindness when it would have been far easier to ignore me. Granted, my mechanic was doing his job and elevated my loyalty, but he easily could have put off the work for a week and sold me more than I needed and I likely wouldn’t have been the wiser.


When I have the opportunity, I like to believe I do the right thing by showing the same type of kindness to those in need.


Now, it’s time for you to share some acts of kindness you’ve experienced. Tell me who and where you are and email your stories to I will try to share some of your stories in the weeks ahead.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.


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