The Coastal Post - May, 1997

Small Kind Acts Go a Long Way

By Auren Hoffman

I'm a nice guy, but I never thought it was necessary to do things for people that they can do for themselves. But a few months ago, I changed my mind. I'm one of those stubborn-always-correct-opinions-based-on-logic type of guy, so changing my mind is a big deal. But a big little deal happened just a few months ago.

Living in a small housing complex, one learns how to share items, help others, and be courteous. I thought taking out my garbage and maybe doing someone else's dishes would fulfill my responsibility.

But then IT happened. I was doing my laundry, placing my clothes in the dryer; and when I went to remove the lint, it was gone! That's right, the lint build-up that is usually tucked-away in the pockets of the dryer that comes in all sizes and colors was removed by someone AFTER she or he did the laundry. There was no note proclaiming the good deed, no person to take credit for my joy, it was just an anonymous very subtle but very wonderful act of kindness.

This small act had a profound effect on me. I ran over to my friend's apartment building to tell him about the cool happenings. As I was running up the stairs I stopped, double-backed, and ran into his laundry room. I removed the lint from all 5 dryers in his complex. I told my friend how easy it was to remove lint from the dryer-I timed it -- 5.29 seconds each! I can always spare 5.3 seconds to bring a small smile to another.

On the way home from that friend, I saw a twig partially blocking the sidewalk. In less than 2 seconds I was able to move that twig to the side of the path so that someone in a bike, wheelchair, or big-wheel wouldn't have to. Now it wasn't hard at all spending all of 30 seconds that day doing kind acts-but I did a few things so that others would not have to.

Before this, I always thought only of the big things. I'd organize large city clean-ups, lobby to pass an important bill, or preach about the upcoming collapse of social security- but now I also think about the clichˇs of helping an older lady with her groceries, sending some words of encouragement to a complete random, or picking up that cigarette butt by the playground.

So next time you do laundry, take out the lint after you dry your clothes. You'll be better for it.


Auren Hoffman is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley and now

is a consultant with Kyber Systems (,

an Internet database firm based in Berkeley, CA. Check out Auren's weekly

column called SUMMATION (