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Returning home from work yesterday, I noticed a column of smoke up the road. It was a distinctive color, the color that tells you a genuine fire is going and something of substance is burning. As I got closer to home, I could see that a condo complex up the road had some pretty good flames going. The nice thing about the neighborhood is its proximity to a fire station, so the situation was quickly brought under control.

At the neighborhood Starbucks, several folks were commenting about how glad they were that it wasn’t their home. Now I can understand the sentiment, but as I think about it, I see more problems in that statement. Sure there’s relief that your home and possessions are safe. But what about the next step, reaching out to those impacted? So very often I see people pass by the scene of an accident, or ignore someone on a street corner. When I ask folks why they go past the answers range from, “I couldn’t help, I’m not trained” to “it’s not my job to help”.

Not everyone is trained to offer high level medical care or major emotional support to someone in need. Yet we all have some human compassion and understanding. The desire to find an expert for everything means that we forget that simple kindness needs no fancy license or certification. There’s a lot of talk about the way people aren’t as polite or compassionate as they used to be. Correcting that starts with a simple act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be big. Rather than thinking, thank goodness it’s not me, ask yourself how can I help this person.

Making that switch is one of the ways to make the world a little bit better.