Burb's Eye View: Finding sweet sparks of humanity
Columnist Bryan Mahoney
“Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's God-given right.”
The act of grumpiness is enticing because it’s easy. The lazy man may cast off the burdens of social responsibility and good-neighborliness to take up a far less enriching but nonetheless satisfying cause: the wholesale drowning of society’s good works in a quagmire of his own making.
Rather than debate the merits of an issue, for example, one can lob insults and non sequiturs that show “He Who Shouts Loudest Shouts Last.”
True friendliness — the outgoing, unexpected kind of good deeds you never see coming — is a yoke few undertake when the ropes of bad manners are so tempting and rampant.
Christina Novak of Burbank found this is no burden, but an entirely freeing experience lifting emotional weights she never realized were there.
As May approached, so did Novak’s 30th birthday. The new decade brought new hope. To capitalize on this goodwill, she made a commitment to do one good deed a day for the whole month.
“It’s already kind of lifted my spirits that I can wake up and say, ‘What can I do today?’” she said.
Unbridled kindness is not an easy thing, Novak learned. After buying a meal for the man behind her at the In-N-Out drive-through, she only received a puzzled look in return.
“I think he thought I was hitting on him. That was kind of anti-climactic,” she said.
She’s also given food to homeless men and bought coffee for acquaintances. A friend having a bad day received a note from Novak to cheer her up, and if you received a parking ticket last week with a $10 bill inside, that was from her.
The idea was just to pay it forward like in that movie, “Scrooged,” where Bill Murray’s character learns that a miserably self-centered life gets you nothing.
Novak began logging ideas for helping others by using a Facebook page. Soon her friends joined, offering stories of random acts of kindness that were done to them or that they bestowed on others.
By mid-May, more than 100 people signed onto the page. Novak only knew half of them.
The word spread to people like Carol Jackson, a former Van Nuys resident who moved to South Dakota last fall.
“I just thought it was a great thing because there’s so much negativity and nastiness going on,” Jackson said. “It helps to remind people that really we need to be nicer to others. Maybe hopefully it’ll be passed on in ways we’ll never see.”
Her favorite thing to do: Help elderly men at the grocery store who many times are shopping on their own for the first time after their spouse has died. Almost every time, she says, they accept and appreciate the help.
A few days before her birthday on May 29, Novak set up another group at facebook.com/lovepeacekindness to keep the good-deeds momentum going. With enough commitments, she and friends old and new might break the decrepit monotony of miserable attitudes altogether.
There’s another great line from “Ghostbusters 2” that sums that up.
“There's gotta be a few sparks of sweet humanity left in this burned-out burg. We just gotta find a way to mobilize it!”
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not paying for the next car at a parking meter, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter at @818NewGuy.