03 July 2008

how to make someone's day

In the warmer months, I bike to work almost everyday. Minneapolis is fortunate enough to have the incredible Midtown Greenway, a bike highway that cuts across the city along former railroad tracks. There are no cars, on and off ramps, community gardens lining the roadway, and sometimes there's even bike traffic (seriously). I really love the Greenway, I love not having to negotiate cars and traffic lights every morning (well, I do have to, but only for a few blocks). I get tired of drivers yelling at me that I should ride on the sidewalk (despite the clear illegality of that action), and I'm sure they get tired of me yelling back at them and giving them the one-finger salute. Minneapolis is definitely a bike friendly city (I think we might actually have the second highest number of bike commuters per capita-after Portland, obviously), but no matter where you go there will always be drivers who just don't get it.

So every morning, I happily hop on the Greenway, and ride the 1.8 miles to work. As I get off, there is a house that has the most beautiful (and quite large) vegetable garden. I remembered it from last year, and it's so fun to watch the progress throughout the summer, just by passing the house twice a day. I noticed a few weeks ago, that the owners of the house had built a really beautiful fence in their driveway out of tree brush. I just loved the way it looked and knew I needed to take a photo of it. For one reason or another, it didn't happen at first. I was always in a rush to get to work or get home. Or there was a car parked in the driveway, or laundry hanging in the yard, or people around.

Finally, one day on my way home from work I decided to stop putting it off and just take the photo. I stopped my bike, pulled out my camera, and got set up to take the photo. Just as I was kneeling down in the middle of their driveway, a car began to pull in. I got up, and tried to put away my camera, embarrassed to have been caught in the act. The driver of the car asked me if I was taking a photo of his fence and I reluctantly said yes, almost apologetically. His face lit up and he offered to park on the street so he wouldn't be in my way. I told him I passed by it almost everyday and I really loved how it looked. He said he had built it himself, kind of on a whim and was so amazed that someone else liked it, much less wanted to take a photo of it. He asked me to give him a copy of the photo when I got it developed (which I most surely will do). He told me that I made his day. I made his day. What a feeling. Who knew, that I could have the power to make someone's day.

But that's just it. We all have the power to make someone's day. And I'm pretty sure it usually doesn't take much. This almost reminded me of Andrea's 52 Strangers Project (don't worry, I won't start a 52 handbuilt fences project). But that's all it takes. Compliment someone's outfit. Take a photo of them. Do something nice for a stranger. There used to be this old sign near my house that said "be especially nice to someone today." Last year when I was bussing/walking to work, I used to see it every morning. I always wanted to take a photo of it, but of course by the time I finally got around to it, they had taken it down. But I still think of it. We can all be especially nice to someone today. Who knows, it might just make their day. And maybe even yours.


  1. You know, I think this beautiful story just about made MY day!

  2. OH julia.....
    yes, I often hesitate to take photos because I am embarrassed or scared. This is such a good story, and a good source of motivation to just do it!
    We could all use a little more kindness in our lives. Thanks for the reminder. What a sweet day....

    Have a good one, girl-and happy 4th!

  3. Small actions can have a big impact! A smile can make my day...ok I don't need much but the point is that sometimes something simple can mean a lot to some people.

    Have a lovely weekend xox

  4. this actually brought tears to my eyes. what a sweet man - and YOU!

    we like strawberry and raspberry equally, but because it'll thrill ben, I'd say raspberry.

  5. What a lovely story, and what an awesome fence. You'll have to tell him he's got admirers all over the internet!

  6. We need to remember to share the road with bikers, they are not made to go on side"walks"...those are for folks walking tell them the next time.