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16 April 2011

Simple Acts of Kindness

by Kathleen Staley

From book 7 , Tales from the Astral Plane, 2011

CEO, Mr. Jayden Martin, ran one of the most financially successful investment companies on Wall St. He had most of his savings invested in stocks and earned billions, at the expense of his many employees and investors. The money was laundered and hidden in secret bank accounts around the world. Many investors lost their life-savings and Jayden Martin, didn’t care, as long as he continued to get more rich and famous. He purchased elaborate and expensive items and collected rare coins and art.

Jayden drove an expensive car, had a Penthouse apartment and a Yacht. When he parked in his personal parking garage, he had to leave the building and walk one block to the office. Along the way, many homeless people were out on the streets, struggling to survive the new day. Jayden turned his nose into the air and pretended not to notice them. If anyone asked him for money, he would say "Get a job, don’t bother me or take a bath!".

He believed that he was elite and superior and lived his life as though the rules were irrelevant. The selfish man did as he pleased, regardless of who it hurt. Although he had many enemies, Jayden continued to exploit others.

He believed nothing could stop him, not even God. Sometimes he would say “I’m richer than God” but shared nothing with his employees, but a meager salary. Nobody liked him, but they pretended to be loyal, in fear of being fired. Jobs were scarce. The economy of the world was changing and the stocks were unpredictable.

Jayden used his employee’s payroll money to gamble with stocks and poker. If he lost, he only paid them a small wage and gave no bonuses. At Christmas, he gave out “virtual checks” for a joke, but no one thought it was funny, when they didn’t get paid at all.

He only bought one gift, for himself- a large bottle of his favorite, most expensive Red Wine. He sat by himself in his office, consuming the wine and indulging his own arrogance. He felt sorry for himself that he was lonely, even with a constant stream of girlfriends. Feeling a sense of entitlement, he continued to sip the expensive, rare wine called Bon Ange or Good Angel.

Alcohol made Jayden behave like a child. He whined and moaned about unimportant issues and wondered why he had no friends. While ranting about the foolishness of Christmas, “Filthy Homeless” and the price of Real Estate, he leaned back too hard, in his custom made chair and it flipped him on to the floor.

One of his secretaries Shelly witnessed the embarrassing moment. She covered her mouth, giggled and said “What goes around, comes around and kicks your butt. That’s Karma, Boss.”

Jayden said “I don’t know what you are talking about. Quit laughing or I’ll fire you!”

Shelly was afraid she would be fired and went to help him get off the floor. She held out her hand, to assist, but he yelled “Get away. I don’t need your help. I don’t need anyone”. He straightened his suit, lifted the chair in the correct position and sat down, in slow motion.

The kind-hearted secretary offered to call his Limousine service, but he screamed “Leave me alone. I’m just fine. I know you just pretend to be kind- you probably want my money, honey. Just like everybody else.”

Shelly was clearly disgusted at the state of  CEO, J. Martin and said “Someone told me once, just one simple act of kindness can change the world” He just ignored her and continued to brood. She left with no intention of returning. Jayden drank all of the wine and passed out at his desk.

Calls came in and woke Jayden from his foggy state. Early morning, the Stock Market crashed. All of Jayden’s money was tied up with bankrupt companies. He realized someone he had stolen money from, was getting revenge. He laid-off his employees and informed them that they would not be paid. Everyone quit and left the building. Jayden had various threats made on his life.

A week passed. Jayden lost his apartment, his latest girlfriend and had his car repossessed. He had no friends and no place to go. He went to a Pub and spent his last few dollars on a bottle of whiskey. In a drunken stupor, the once proud man, stumbled into an alley and passed out. Someone robbed him for his designer suit and shoes. They traded for an old smelly jacket, soiled pants and shoes.

  While he was asleep, Jayden had a horrible nightmare. In the dream, there was no amount of money in the world, to pay for his many sins and he was sentenced to spend an eternity in Hell. Demons ripped at his flesh and he screamed in agony as he was torn apart and reassembled, over and over. An auction was held where his organs were sold to the highest bidder.

While sprawled out on the ground, two business men passed. One man said “Pathetic drunk, get a life” and continued down the street.

The man said to his companion “Did you hear about the CEO, Jayden Martin? I heard he finally got his just rewards. They found his body by the river this morning. All he had left were the clothes on his back and his designer shoes.”

The other man said “Yes, I heard he killed himself after he went bankrupt. He jumped off the bridge. Serves him right, the man was a monster. The world is a better place without him.”

They both laughed loudly and the other man said “He had everything anyone could want. Great looks, perfect health, Women, Money, a Yacht-What a greedy jerk, he had millions and wasted it and the fool committed suicide. The stock market already went back up and he’s richer than ever!”

Jayden woke up with a terrible hangover. His stomach was empty and so were his pockets. He hadn’t eaten in two days and was weak with hunger. The soiled clothes made a horrible stench and no one would come near him.

A tantalizing aroma of food filled the air and led him to a homeless shelter, serving lunch. He was surprised how many people had no place to eat or sleep. It had never occurred to him that he would be standing in a lunch line. His odor was too offensive to be let inside, but he was sent away with a small bag of food. He sat at the park and devoured the meal. It tasted wonderful and fortified him. He wandered out to the street and recognized a group of his former colleagues. When he approached them, they quickly moved away, covering their noses. One of them said “Take a bath, man. Have some self respect!”

Jayden had never felt so desperate and alone in his life. With no place to go, he crawled behind a dumpster, in a nearby alley. A small group of homeless people also sought refuge from the bitter cold winter night. He recognized one of them was his former secretary, Shelly and her daughter.

He felt terrible for his deeds that led to the situation. Ashamed, he hid from their view. When he fell asleep and had a horrible dream that he starved to death and no one cared or held a funeral.  The vision of his own death terrified him and he suddenly woke up, shivering. He felt weak and disoriented. He placed his freezing hands over his quivering mouth and started sobbing. Tears clung to his cold cheeks. Snow began to fall softly, at first and then a blizzard blasted hard wind and formed a blanket of sleet that covered him in a matter of moments.

 Out of the shadows, a little girl, wrapped in a thin, tattered coat, appeared in front of Jayden. She smiled at him and took hold of his hand. The warmth of her hand sent waves of heat throughout his frozen body. On her head was a fuzzy, white knit cap with holes in it, resembling a halo. She carried a backpack that reminded him of Angel wings. She walked away and motioned for him to follow.

He stood up and was led by the tiny girl, into an alley, where it appeared to hit a dead end. The girl pressed her small hand on a loose brick and opened a passageway. A long tunnel led to an abandoned, condemned part of the subway, where a group of homeless families dwelled.

Jayden was shocked when he saw the hundreds of children and parents, huddled into the nooks and crannies of the dangerous tunnels. Parts of the deteriorating subway were infested with rats, insects and filled with toxic fumes. He had no idea that places like that existed and was appalled at the unsanitary conditions the people were forced to live in. He felt ashamed that he had always assumed people could afford to have housing, food and sanitary living conditions. He was humbled by the way he was welcomed into the encampment.

The little girl, Gabriella, was six years old and had never lived in a real home. Her parents had died during a cold winter and she was raised by the homeless, since the age of two. Gabriella’s smile lit up the faces of everyone around her. She was adored by the entire encampment. They arrived at a central gathering place and the girl pointed to a small cardboard tent and said it was her home. She went inside her cubby-hole for a moment. When she returned, she handed Jayden her last morsel of food. 

He was stunned and said “This is your food. Why did you give it to me?”

She said “A simple act of kindness can change the world and many such acts can create miracles. Haven’t you heard of the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Or that you reap what you sow? It's all in the Bible. Besides, you seem hungrier than I am, so you can have it”.

Such words coming from the little girl was somewhat unnerving to Jayden. He had always been vain and self absorbed. People adored him for his looks and money. Gabriella had been the first person to be genuinely kind to him. It made him feel guilty and sympathetic to the many victims of the economy and ashamed that he had mocked the unfortunate in the past.

He listened to the many stories about how they had lost their jobs and homes, due to the stock market collapse. Jayden could see that they were all hard working people and had unfortunate circumstances.

For the first time in his life, he felt compassion and realized how selfish he had been. He felt true affection for the little girl, with a heart of gold and her neighbors. Something inside of him changed and he became aware of the reality of poverty.

He graciously accepted the food. While he ate, his head was full of intense and profound thoughts about Life, Death, Goodness and Evil.

Gabriella disappeared into her hiding place and returned with clean clothes, shoes and a warm coat for Jayden, her new friend. She also gave him an old Bible and a tarnished medallion that she had found by a water fountain. He was led to the fountain, where he bathed and put on the fresh clothes. The self-absorbed man was shocked and surprised at the child’s kindness. She smiled at him and vanished into the tunnel.

Zeke, a homeless man and former pawnbroker, recognized the medallion as part of a valuable collection of medals from World War II. He was livid when Gabriella gave the medal to the stranger. Zeke waited for the chance to take it for his own.

During the night, Jayden wandered away from the underground encampment and attempted to return to his office building. Gabriella followed closely. Zeke also followed him and watched as a gang of hoodlums encircled him.

Jayden ran as fast as possible and temporarily eluded the gang. Zeke grabbed Gabriella and he started shaking her and shouted “Where’s the medal, you little brat! I saw you give it to that stranger. You should share it with the rest of us!”

Jayden heard the little girl scream and turned back to help her. He stumbled and fell on the subway tracks. In a matter of moments, the gang circled around and kicked him, over and over, with their heavy boots. They kicked him until he was barely conscious. Zeke grabbed Jayden and forced him to stand. He pointed a gun at him and demanded to have the medallion or be killed. Gabriella would suffer the same fate, if he did not comply. Jayden reached into his pocket and realized the medallion was gone. Zeke pulled out a gun and waved it around and threatened Gabriella. Jayden lunged at Zeke to protect the little girl.

The little girl struggled and got away. At the instant Zeke put the gun to Jayden’s head, he woke up from the wine induced nightmare.

He remembered that it was still Christmas Eve, day and realized the stock crash was only part of his nightmare.

Shelly was preparing to leave on holiday and was still in the building. Jayden called her on the intercom and asked her to come to his office. He wrote out a generous, genuine check and wished her a Merry Christmas. He instructed her to distribute the paychecks with bonuses and promotions, to all employees.

Shelly was overjoyed and said “Thank-you Mr. Martin, what a great act of kindness. I now can afford to have a real Christmas for my beautiful Angel, six-year old daughter, Gabriella. She only has a thin coat and a tattered hat and backpack. She wished for a warm coat and plenty of food this Christmas. Thanks and bless you Sir.”

Jayden experienced an overwhelming warm feeling of love and compassion, for the first time in his life. On the way to his parking garage he took the time to study the buildings and surrounding neighborhood. As he walked he actually noticed and observed the faces of  many homeless people.  The aroma of a Turkey dinner filled his nostrils and led him to a Salvation Army serving a free meal.

Jayden rolled up his sleeves and served hundreds of homeless for the holiday. At the end of the event he helped clean up, without eating a bite. Before leaving, he anonymously placed a generous check into the donation jar and had a truck deliver enough food to feed and provide beds and blankets for everyone at the shelter. A few people knew Jayden contributed to the shelter, but kept it secret.

When thanked for his kindness, he said “A simple act of kindness can change the world and many of such acts can create miracles”.

He went to his apartment that night, vowing to never drink alcohol again.

When he changed his clothes, he found a tarnished medallion, from World War II in the pants pocket and a small bible tucked away in the coat. Jayden had the medallion appraised and it turned out to be worth over a million dollars. It was part of a collection that belonged to a Cathedral in Russia and was the last one to complete the set. By ironic coincidence the Appraiser looked exactly like Zeke from the nightmare. He paid Jayden a handsome reward for returning the priceless coin.

He read in the bible and prayed to God for the first time. An overwhelming feeling filled his spirit and he attended church that night. Shelly and Gabriella were in the congregation. The little angelic girl was smiling and was wearing her new coat, hat, dress and shoes. He believed Gabriella was his Christmas Angel and his new found faith and sobriety were the Miracles she spoke of.  

Jayden smiled and felt a sense of peace in his heart. He found it ironic that a wine induced dream changed his life. The reward money from the medal started a foundation for the homeless, where food and supplies were delivered year round. It was called Simple Acts of Kindness.

© 2011, Kathleen A. Staley


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