Nowadays, I feel that we are out of touch with true kindness. Kindness is seen almost exclusively on phone screens through social media, where selfless people feed the homeless and leave extra-large cash tips at restaurants, where abandoned puppies are adopted by strangers and giant teddy bears distribute roses on the streets.

Kindness is no more than a brief tinge of inspiration before we scroll down to the next meme, the next corgi video and the next inspirational clip to which we tell ourselves, “next time.” Guilty as any other, I decide that the people in the videos are who I strive to be — but when I pass a homeless person on State Street, when I am prompted to “donate to ___ Charity (any amount will do!),” I think about what an extra dollar can buy me with my college Amazon Prime and, begrudgingly, decide again:

“Next time.”

Next time, I will put a stranger’s needs before mine. Next time, I will be rich enough, brave enough to make a sacrifice. Next time, I will be kind.

It has become a major trend in our generation, but it’s not that we don’t have good intentions. And it’s certainly not that we don’t care. Nevertheless, our routine hesitation to show kindness never speaks as loud as to those who are searching for it.

Without realizing it at first, searching for kindness is exactly what I set out to do. While I’d developed a certain distaste for those using the internet to boast acts of kindness, I had no problem using social media to promote it. Last semester, I had recently decided to become more involved in a student organization of mine, the Pre-Pharmacy Student Organization. Seeing that it was Relay for Life fundraising season, I took on the role of the “shameless advertiser”: sharing events on Facebook, posting updates on my Snapchat story and nagging virtually every human soul I encountered to come to our Chipotle fundraising event today from 4-8 p.m.! And what shame did I have, publicizing a nationally proclaimed fundraiser for cancer research? I truly wanted to make a difference — to my club, to the cancer patients, to anyone I could, really — but it was the usual lack of cooperation that met my newfound bout of benevolence.

The day of the fundraiser, there were the PPSO members who attended because they had to, and the few friends who attended because I told them to — earning from me a high-pitched “OMG thank you!” Mostly, there were the “next times”: the ones who didn’t have time that day, the ones who have already spent too much money on food that week and the ones who accepted my Diag flyers as simple courtesy — if at all. And I couldn’t blame them, because I too am busy, poor and experienced in the art of flyer evasion. I asked myself if I would be going to Chipotle that night if it was another organization holding the fundraiser, even though I already knew that the answer was no.

Hence, it was not in particularly high hopes that I announced the fundraiser to my evening medical ethics seminar. I expected my announcement to affect one or two listeners at best, and it was no secret that my classmates, feigning interest, expected the same. Thus, it did not occur to us that when our professor decided to “end class 10-15 minutes early to get burritos — on [him]!” that he was not even a little bit joking. As he addressed our dropped jaws with a smile, I cautiously asked if he was sarcastic, to which he replied, “of course not, it’s a great cause!”

And a great cause it was – to the class, to PPSO, to the Relay for Life foundation, but to me, especially. As dramatic as it sounds, I had been splashed with cold cynicism throughout my long day of minimally successful advertising, such that I began questioning why I was still pushing for the fundraiser at all. Was it truly out of desperation to help others, or simply out of obligation? Or was it just to look more passionate, more involved?

Our professor didn’t want to look like anything. Rather, he wanted purely to donate to charity, sending the whole class to Chipotle with $200 in cash and wishing us the sincerest “enjoy!” before rushing home to spend time with his kids. As we walked out of Mason Hall into the cold Michigan evening, a classmate noted he was not wearing a coat. In fact, he had given his jacket to a medical resident at work, refusing to let her out in the cold without her own. It was not the first time he absolutely inspired us.

Needless to say, my Chipotle bowl tasted especially good that day. There is something about the immediate presence of sheer kindness that punctuates a moment so easily mistaken for mundane. I felt more touched than I had been in a while — for the first time, I did not have to beg, persuade or offer any reward for someone to do so naturally what most would not. It was a much-needed reminder that not every modern act of kindness is of the “staged, filmed and posted online” variety, and that the most commendable of actions are free of credits, likes and a tirade of negative comments.

A few months later, I can’t say that I now drop $200 on fundraisers or lend my belongings without question, but hey — I’ve developed a new appreciation for all the good causes to explore on this diverse campus, as well as the pesky Diag flyers that promote them.

While I can’t say how many more “next times” are down the road, I invite us to ask ourselves: if we don’t inspire each other, who will?

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