Some people ain’t no damn good. You can’t trust ‘em, you can’t love ‘em, No good deed goes unpunished.
— John Mellencamp
There’s a TV commercial I see every now and then, and it always surpsises me and pleases me when it comes on. I don’t remember who sponsored the ad, but I do know it has Ben Harper’s “Amen Omen” playing in the background (one of my Top 20 songs ever).
The commercial is about people, for no apparent reason, doing random acts of kindness for individuals they don’t know. There’s the guy who sees someone hold a door open for a fellow shopper who has her arms full, and he’s inspired to help a handicapped person cross the street. Or a lady who sees someone pick up an item for a person who’d dropped it, and she’s inspired to give directions to an obviously lost person.
The premise is a pretty cool one: People see these random acts of kindness playing out, and it inspires them to do the same. Pretty soon, there are enough folks “paying it forward” that the world slowly starts to change for the better.
I’m sure that’s the theory, at least in concept.
But here in our little corner of the world, where a sense of cynicism permeates almost everything we see, do and touch, I seldom see such acts. In fact, I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to see random acts of rudeness offered in return for such kindnesses.
A working man risks hefty fines rather than take down the country’s flag that he displays near his place of business, and when others salute him for his patriotism some bitter observer castigates the public for its positive response by declaring, “I’ve heard enough about this. Let’s move on.”
A truly grateful citizen publicly thanks a government official for his work in pushing through legislation that the citizen feels is beneficial to himself and his community, and he is ridiculed by cynics who assure him the official’s purposes were selfish and that he’s an idiot — or worse — to believe otherwise.
A young person pours his heart and soul into a Scout project that will earn him a merit badge and eventually the rank of Eagle Scout, and his peers — who wouldn’t take their hands off their cellphones long enough to do much of anything because they might miss a text from the boyfriend/girlfriend they just left five minutes ago — laugh and ridicule him for his efforts.
An elderly gentlemen with a speech impediment, who has the double misfortune of dressing in worn and cast-off clothing, struggles to make a store clerk understand what he needs, and people standing nearby either wear looks of disgust that such a one should be in their presence or they make crude immitative gestures to the delight of their friends.
A proud member of one race shows pride in accomplishments of his ancestors only to have the accomplishments belittled by others of a different race, based solely on their race.
Youngsters not yet jaded by their obviously more cosmopolitan friends actually take delight in looking at Christmas light displays, visiting the Easter Bunny at the mall, loudly repeating the words of the “Pledge of Allegiance,” walking hand-in-hand with their grandmother, whispering secrets to their best friend ... only to have those “friends” try and corrupt them with negative peer pressure.
You see these things, and you wonder what kind of anti-random acts of kindness ad could be made in our community, what kind of bad-deeds-in-exchange-for-good commercial we could make right here in the land where “Southern hospitality” has all but become a thing of the past, one of those quaint notions that was OK for our predecessors but too backward for our more refined tastes.
When they make that ad, I’ve got the perfect background music: A little AC/DC ... “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.