As we get ready to start a new year, I wanted to share some true stories that I hope you find inspiring, or at least cheerful..
First, one I personally experienced. I went surfing once in Santa Cruz on a day that had very small waves. I was on a beat up old surfboard and I was catching a few waves, but missing others. I was thinking about buying a new board, but hadn't done it yet. As I surfed I saw someone familiar to me: Ed, a surf instructor well known in Santa Cruz, and the guy that had taught the surfing class I took 20 years ago. I was kind of staring at Ed remembering that class, and he noticed. Awkwardly I said "hi" and told him about remembering him from class. We chatted for a few moments and he asked about my beat up board and told me I needed a bigger board. He offered to let me borrow the big ten foot board he was using for awhile, so we switched boards and I caught a lot more waves. That helped clinch the decision to buy a new surfboard.
Fast forward a few months - I bought a new board and I'm surfing at the same spot on another day with small waves. There were lots of people in the water surfing, and among them was a woman in her late 20s on a pink foam surfboard that had quite a lot of blue duct tape on the front of it. I had brought my new nine foot surfboard and was successfully catching a lot of small waves, but I kept noticing the woman try, and miss, wave after wave on her beat up pink and blue duct tape board.
After a little while, I was inspired to do something crazy. I approached the woman an told her that her board reminded me of my old board, and that I had recently bought a new board and was catching lots of waves, and would she like to borrow it for a few rides? She was very skeptical at first, probably wondering what my angle was or what I was after, but I told her the story of Ed and the surfboard he let me borrow, so she borrows my board and catches the first wave she tries for. She paddles back with a big grin and asks if it's ok if she rides it a little more, which I happily let her do.
Fast forward a few more months and I'm surfing again at the same spot, with the same conditions. I see the woman and she paddles over to me on her new bright green surfboard with a big smile on her face. She says she just wants to thank me for that day and that she went right out and bought a new board (same brand as mine) and she's been having so much more success and fun ever since.
Story number two:
My friend Sam told me this story today. He told me how years ago, before he was married, his wife (then his fiance) got a flat tire on hwy 280, up by the Father Serra rest stop. The highway patrol made them move the car to the rest stop before trying to change the flat, and in the process a special lug nut was lost. So Sam and his wife are at the rest stop and Sam is trying to change the flat. A few people stop and try to help, including a homeless guy who is living in his truck at the rest stop. The homeless guy is named Mike, and Mike has tools in his truck. Sam and Mike try for awhile to fix it, but no luck, so finally Sam calls a tow truck.
While they're waiting, Sam and this fiance get all the food they can find out of their cars and share it with Mike at the rest stop. Mike tells them his story, and they somewhat sheepishly tell them about how much stress and anxiety they're having trying to plan their wedding. Mike tells them, "you two need to spend more time focusing on each other, and remember why you're getting married - that's the important thing".
Sam gets home and decides to help Mike out if he can, so he gathers up some extra camping equipment, warm clothes, etc., and goes back to the rest stop and gives them to Mike.
Fast forward a few months. Mike calls Sam and tells him that his situation has greatly improved and he wants to thank Sam for his kindness. He tells Sam that the stuff Sam gave him made a real difference, and that everyone living at the rest area had used the stove Sam gave him to cook their food.
Every action matters. Every kindness sends ripples out into the world and improves lives.
Happy New Year.