Good Deeds, Foggy Morning

Classes started three weeks ago and since then, I’ve been pretty good about getting myself up and out the door in a timely manner.  Despite the fog this morning, I got on my bike and made the two mile trek to campus. So here I am, sitting at my desk in studio, watching the fog roll off the top of the Campanile and making my daily to do list. 

I’ve been trying to work on doing good deeds, as cliche as that sounds.  I think this is a pretty typical human experience, but usually when I do something for someone else it’s with the implication that eventually they’ll repay the favor.  That by showing them that they can count on me, I can count on them a little more.  I know that in the past few months I’ve asked some pretty insane favors of my friends: midnight airport pickups, help with my bike, relationship advice, borrowing outfits for parties, shoulders to cry on when things seemed bleak and unbearable. And the great thing about having a flexible schedule is that I can repay those favors; I’m the friend who is available in the middle of the day to run a quick errand, give dating advice or proofread an essay.  Those are things I do happily, because what’s the point of life if you don’t spend it with the people that you value?

Being kind to strangers, on the other hand, is infinitely more difficult.  I’d love to give time or money to charity but right now I have neither, and I think a lifetime on the east coast has made me incredibly suspicious of strangers.  It’s mostly a defense mechanism; despite all the reassurances I’ve given my grandmother that nothing is going to happen to me when I’m on BART or walking around downtown late at night there’s always the little voice in my head with a running commentary of all the bad things that have happened to women featured on the eleven o’clock news.  So there’s one thing holding me back: fear.

But I don’t have to let those reservations seep into my everyday life (well, unless there is an occasion when I should be vigilant, like at a bar or walking around in a bad area).  There’s no reason not to make conversation with the elderly lady at Berkeley Bowl or the guy sitting next to me on the bus.  People here are much friendlier than where I grew up, and I suppose I have a friendly looking face that makes people want to talk to me.

I’ve been easing into this goal over the weekend: making eye contact and smiling at people while I’m walking, unlocking the studio door for someone who had her hands full, listening to strangers at a party, moving my groceries up on the conveyer belt for the person behind me.   Baby steps, but it definitely feels lovely.


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