I was walking with a friend when we spotted a set of keys right in the middle of the huge, hectic intersection at 86th and Lexington.
I scooped them up, but when we got to the sidewalk, we were at a loss. Given that the keys were in the middle of the street, the owner had probably just dropped them. What to do? Give them to the guy in the corner newsstand? Put them on the sidewalk and hope the owner would re-trace her steps? (The key chain was a preppy band of pink and blue ribbon; it obviously belonged to a woman.)
Even a few months ago, I don’t think I would have spent much time trying to figure out a solution, but one of my May goals is “Look for ways to help others.” Also, I must confess, my friend was very determined to solve the problem.
There was no conspicuous place to leave the keys to be found, so we looked back at the key-ring. It was strange; I felt guilty, like we were looking through her wallet.
What clues? A label from the store CK Bradley on the ribbon key-chain. An AAA key-chain card. And, ah-ha, a mini-membership card for Kidville, a place that offers little kids’ classes, with a bar code identifier stamped on one side. Kidville would be able to access the owner’s account and get her phone number. And Kidville was only two blocks away, at 84th.
I offered to drop off the keys; selfishly, I wanted the buzz of doing the good deed. The Kidville clerk promised to call the owner on her cell phone, and I left feeling great. Imagine the owner’s relief! Maybe she hadn’t even noticed that her keys were missing.
Studies show that people who perform acts of kindness get a measurable boost in happiness. In fact, Jonathan Haidt points out in his terrific book, The Happiness Hypothesis, people are often made happier by giving help than by getting it.
Do good, feel good.