Random acts of Kindness
"there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."- Scott Adams
Jen and i decided to take a break from watching arrested development and attend our local neighborhood association meeting to see what’s happening and with the hopes of clarifying the possibilities for our house in terms of zoning. As we discuss being in portland for at least a few months of the year a reoccurring dilemma always rears its head- we have no place to live, cant afford to pay a mortgage or rent on our own for very long.
We’ve discussed many options for this house from building a gallery in front to try drawing in pedestrian traffic (and driving us to be creative); to converting it into a duplex with 90% of the house remaining a rental but adding a small living quarters for us. We no longer need a large living space, and this option would allow us to live in portland essentially without paying rent/mortgage; and possibly even rent it out while we are away for extra money- a pretty attractive plan! All options require us to go through the city however, and it’s better to start by making friends with the neighborhood association rather than working against them later, so i whipped up a couple of renderings and we went to discuss wither the powers that be.
The meeting was truly insightful and we happened to show up for the annual meeting where elections are held and board members are nominated. We reminded ourselves that we aren’t likely to be here for an entire year, and fought back the desire to run for office; but will likely stay involved in the group and help out where we can.
On the way home we stopped to pick up some takeout at our local dive bar. As we waited for our meal we started chatting with the guy next to us. He tells us about a woodworking project that he has been working on, and we immediately ask to know more.
He tells us how 20 years ago he had written down 6 words that he felt embodied life. Create/Give, Teach/Learn, Love/Live. He apparently spent the last 20years trying to figure our what to do with these words and how to use them, or how to share them with others. He also describes how he’s now traveling, and a few days ago he had an epiphany that the best way to display these 6 words would be onto a cube.
My brain is picturing some larger than life wooden cube and him toiling away with electric tools and routers, but instead he reaches into his pocket and retrieves a pair of simple wooden dice. He delicately hands us the dice and tells us to roll. We instinctively roll one each which Milo finds odd (apparently the first to do so). Jen rolls “Teach” and i roll “Live”. Which immediately sets our minds and hearts in motion.
Milo asks what it means to us and something in his gentle and caring manner has us immediately open up and willing to share. My instinctual answer is that jen has been teaching me to live. As an aside- Jen still disagrees with this answer because she doesn’t feel like a teacher, but whether she’s delivering the message purposefully our not, i’m learning it...which makes her a highly effective one.
This experience hits us deeply, lights us up and sparks further conversation with the stranger at the bar. As we learn more about Milo we realize that he hasn’t had much go right in the past year. He went through a divorce, was laid off and is now living in a van and driving aimlessly around the country. We obviously feel so connected to Milo, and feel lucky that we made choices that led to our homeless/joblessness while so many others didn’t have a choice. Milo however, doesn’t seem downtrodden or forlorn, he’s energetic and happy and kindness beams from his eyes. He’s enjoying the opportunity to travel and see new places, and he’s pouring himself into this “woodworking project” which to us looks more like social experiment.
For the past few weeks, milo has been lovingly carving/sanding a pair of dice each day and when he finds someone whom he has a connection with during the day- he lets them roll the dice and listens to what the words mean to them. The stories he has heard since are truly remarkable, and it’s clear how many people he’s touching with a moment of pure reflection and honesty. A chance to pause, look your soul in the mirror and honestly tell a stranger about what’s on your mind at that moment. So rare.
I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s in our future, what the master plan is and how we can not only find a way to survive but also to make a difference in the lives of others. It seems so huge, so impossible to set in motion a plan to touch others and i get lost in the vastness of it. Yet, here is Milo. A guy who could easily be sitting in a corner and cursing the world for what it had dealt him. Instead, Milo’s chosen to share with others these six words that mean so much to him. To focus his days on creating beauty with his hands and sharing it with others. He is making a difference in peoples’ days (and therefore their lives), and the only pity is that not everyone got to run into this homeless stranger at the end of their day.
As we walk out of the bar Milo shares that the dice themselves are a gift for us. Ours to take away. He hopes that by rolling them each day we will get the type of value from them that he got by carving them and by giving them to us. We walk away into the pouring rain in deep thought and conversation, but it’s so clear to us that the gift given to us that day was Milo himself. I hope we are lucky enough to have our paths cross again while he’s in town, and i can only hope that our interaction gave back to him in some small way as well.