Anne Notations

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Random acts of sweetness

Little did I realize that last week, my birthday week, was officially Random Acts of Kindness Week! There is even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to encourage voluntary good deeds. It's all a bit Pollyanna and gagtastic if you're a cynic and tired of seeing the bumper stickers everywhere. But maybe there's something behind the cutesy slogan. Does it really hurt to do something nice for a perfect stranger?

My own random acts of kindness tend to be mundane: I wave forward a car waiting on a side street during my commute; I leave a coupon on the supermarket shelf near its corresponding can of soup.

Once I received an act too special, too sweet, to describe as mere kindness, although random it certainly was. My freshman year at Brown I lived in an all-girls dorm of recent vintage. Quaint formalities still applied: visiting hours, sign-ins at the front desk staffed by the motherly Mrs. McDermott (RIP), our own mailboxes in the foyer instead of across campus in the P.O.

It was February, and my first big passionate college relationship, with wealthy, hunky, sardonic "Rich" (not his real name), was faltering. Valentine's Day arrived, and in my mailbox I found a joke card from said unromantic boyfriend wishing me "Happy V.D.", yuk yuk. I was only 18, and the card stung a little.

Later that day Mrs. McDermott's soothing voice came over the intercom in my room. "Anne, there's something for you at the front desk." I rode the elevator down from the fourth floor and immediately saw, as I stepped into the lobby, an enormous bouquet of deep red long-stemmed roses in a milkglass vase. I ripped open the attached envelope and read the handwriting on a white card:

Pi = 3.14159265....

Nothing more.

The roses were thrilling, gorgeous, mysterious. I was the envy of my hallmates. When I queried Rich about the roses that night (tentative, hopeful), he bristled: "No, I didn't send them! Who are you seeing?"

Why did I always pick the mean, macho guys?

Within the week Rich went back to his preppy Skidmore girlfriend, causing me to shed some ritual tears and move along. In the years before I graduated, I occasionally thought about my mysterious Valentine; the memory made me smile and feel warm.

Fast forward: Four days before graduation, I was in the hardware store on Thayer Street buying God knows what. I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Are you Anne H_____?" asked a young man standing near me. He introduced himself, a fellow senior about to graduate.

"Our freshman year," he said, "did you get some roses on Valentine's Day?"

My eyes flew open and I gasped. "Yes! I never knew who sent them."

He smiled. "My friends and I were sitting around the night before Valentine's Day, going through the Pig Book" – Brown guys' charming name for the women's freshman photo directory. "We decided to pick out someone who looked nice and send her roses. We all chipped in for them."

The mystery was solved – fortuitously, just before we dispersed into our futures. I was the lucky girl who had "looked nice" in the photo book.

"You guys made me so happy," I told him. "My boyfriend was being a jerk, and I was lonely. Your roses made me feel special and appreciated. Thank you so much."

Those boys had committed a perfect, anonymous act of sweetness. With this eleventh-hour revelation, my undergraduate years felt complete.

Maybe I'll set up a Random Acts of Sweetness foundation. Yeah, it sounds cloying and corny. So what. Everyone deserves a thrilling little mystery – and some flowers – in their life.


  • So, is that who you married? That would be the topper to the story!

    By Blogger Michael A. Golrick, at Tue Nov 20, 05:29:00 PM EST  

  • Oh, Michael G. - now I feel as if my little story is lame! Nope; no such zingy ending. Didn't meet the future hubby until after Brown.

    He has, however, given me roses on many occasions. :-)

    By Blogger Anne D., at Tue Nov 20, 07:59:00 PM EST  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Ian, at Wed Nov 21, 01:38:00 AM EST  

  • That was awesome - what is it about these stories that make them so compelling?

    By Blogger Ian, at Wed Nov 21, 01:39:00 AM EST  

  • Anne, delurking from Ian's blog to say hat that was a beautiful story, not least because it made me thing of our joint alma mater in a different way. Gone were the women's dorms and separation of the sexes when I was there..but that did make your story all the romantic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 21, 04:08:00 AM EST  

  • Great story, Anne! Although I think those guys should have revealed themselves earlier, lest they actually cause you trouble. It's so sweet that it worked out that way, and that four years later, the guy remembered your face! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Caren from Ian's blog

    By Blogger AddledWriter, at Wed Nov 21, 09:52:00 AM EST  

  • I'll join!

    By Blogger bozoette, at Wed Nov 21, 03:53:00 PM EST  

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