Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paying it forward...

Never underestimate the power of a random act of kindness. A simple gesture can make a tremendous impact upon the recipient. I myself benefited from a simple kind act that probably seemed pretty inconsequential to the guy who helped me out, but to this day I recall his name even though we only met once, briefly, and haven’t spoken since. I try my best to pay it forward whenever I can, to keep the wheels of common decency turning, but I never really got a chance to thank him.

Back on September 13th, 1999, my ex-wife and I drove 3 ½ hours from our home in Bangor, Maine to Foxboro, Massachusetts to see the band REM at the Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts (which to me will always be Great Woods). It was a long drive, and we got there early to get good parking and to get a good spot on the lawn, since our tickets were for the general admission area. With some extra time to kill, we rode through the surrounding area and found an open liquor store that seemed to be jam-packed and doing a brisk business. It was time to get some tailgating supplies.

We picked up some snacks and a six pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, since no trip to greater Boston is complete without some Sammy, and headed back to the stadium. All parked and set up with a couple folding chairs, it was time to crack open a frosty adult libation….and guess who forgot that Sam Adams doesn’t come with a twist-off cap? Yeah, me.

What to do? A Saturn lacks the big metal bumpers to pop a cap off with. Being a non-smoker, I lacked a Bic lighter with which to do that cool bottle-opener trick. My belt wasn’t equipped with a rodeo cowboy serving-platter buckle to try, and using your teeth only works in those mid-80’s Hollywood college party movies. Oh, crap.

Well, maybe one of the several groups of fellow revelers around me has a bottle opener I can use?

Sure enough, the next group over had an opener, and the very nice fellow that I struck up a conversation with gifted me before we parted. He produced a set of keys on a key ring, and from of this key ring he unhooked a simple plain silver metal bottle opener and bequeathed it to me along with his card, saying that no one should ever be without their own bottle opener and joking that I should never think that folks from Massachusetts were unfriendly.

That was just over 8 years ago; I still have that opener on my key chain. I managed to keep it in the divorce. I’ve used it thousands of times, both on my bottles and the bottles of others, at concerts, parties, cookouts, wakes, weddings, sporting events, and myriad other events. No one should ever be without a bottle opener.

So, thank you. Today I finally say thank you to that kind, unassuming fellow with the spare opener. Seth Taylor, founder of Molecularware, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical software company, and current managing general partner of Vectur, a bioscience consulting firm, holder of an MBA from MIT and a PhD in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins, and all-around decent guy, thanks. Your kindness has never been forgotten.

And to all my readers, I challenge you to go commit a random act of kindness. Go forth and be decent. You’ll feel better, and you’ll probably make a difference.

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