Kindness on the street

If you’re following the advice of Elian Rubin, the 14-year-old Princeton High School sophomore and Boy Scout, “little acts of kindness go a long way.” But when was the last time you paused to think about doing something kind for a stranger? When was the last time a stranger acted compassionately for you?

Whether it’s welcoming a new neighbor or holding the door for the person behind you; whether you offer your home to someone without one, buy a hungry child something to eat or save someone’s life, The Sun was curious about random acts of kindness committed right here in Princeton.

The most common answer started with a pause. People found it difficult, at least at first, to remember the last good deed done for them by an unknown person. Slowly but surely, the replies began and it seemed the consensus, at least for these locals, it’s all in the “little acts.”

“I always think of the things someone does for me in that moment – that’s when it’s a lot more consequential,” Lori Rabon said. “It’s a good question that you don’t think about very often. I always try to pay it forward. I think it’s the small things that matter.”

Another woman, Virginia Fry, tried to think of a warm gesture.

“Well,” she said, “someone let me cut them in the long line to the restroom at a concert when I was pregnant.”

A pair of sisters, Sally Schwartz and Carol Breslaw, feuded over the timeless discussion of whether human beings are good or evil at their cores.

“I’m cynical,” Breslaw said. “I don’t think [acts of kindness] happen very often.”

“Oh, I think they do,” Schwartz, who was visiting her sister from New York, said optimistically. “I think people want to be good.”

“I don’t,” Breslaw said.

Earlier that day, however, Breslaw had shown the good of mankind by doing a small kindness for someone she didn’t know. A man who had been sitting beside Breslaw left the park – and his cell phone behind. Breslaw noticed the phone and told a nearby police officer who was able to return the phone to the man minutes after.

Saudi Polanco recalled a little act of kindness he did a couple years ago while spending time in New Brunswick.

“I bought two homeless men pizza. They were brothers who had been traveling. They were asking for money and I felt it was better to get them pizza,” Polanco said. “They were nice guys.”

Angelo Mijailidis was leaving a store recently when a man carried a large plastic bag full of change. The bag broke and change exploded all over the floor.

“I stopped to help him pick it up and was about five minutes late that day. But it had happened to me and I knew how badly it felt,” Mijailidis said.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida