Guard of the Month Pfc. Charles Ruffin, Company B, 1974, by Richard Farrar. Record Unit 371, Image no. 74-7496-10, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Spreading a Little Kindness Here at Smithsonian

Couldn’t we all use a little more warmth and kindness in the world? For World Kindness Day, we’re highlighting acts of kindness by Smithsonian employees that were featured in the staff newsletter, The Torch.  

If you find yourself up past your bedtime watching videos of children being surprised with gifts of puppies or soldiers returning home to their families, you’re not alone. We all crave a little warmth and kindness in the world. And at Smithsonian, we spread the love with acts of kindness. Here are a few stories from The Torch, Smithsonian’s staff newsletter, about employees who became everyday heroes by being, well, kind.

Have you ever forgotten your umbrella on a rainy day?

In 1959, Indiana Congressman Joseph W. Barr and his friend were getting drenched by the rain while stuck in traffic on Independence Avenue. But Smithsonian Section of Photography employee Rudolph G. Morris saved the day. According to the congressman, Morris pulled alongside Barr’s open-topped car and threw him a raincoat with the friendly advice to send it back to the Smithsonian in the morning. Of the act, Barr wrote, “This was an act of gentlemanly courtesy that literally left me dumbfounded.” Barr was so grateful for the kind deed that he wrote a letter of gratitude to Smithsonian Secretary Leonard Carmichael

In a series of four negative images, men and women are pictured clapping and speaking.

Have you ever run into car trouble on your way to work?

When he heard a strange noise coming from the car that belonged to Mildred Pappas, a Woodrow Wilson Center employee, Smithsonian guard Charles Ruffin knew exactly what to do. Ruffin, who was awarded Smithsonian’s Guard of the Month designation in 1974, quickly tightened and replaced the loose lug nuts, preventing any potential accidents. Pappas sent a letter to Chief of Protection Jay Chambers, writing that Ruffin went “above and beyond the realm of parking lot control activities.”

A guard in uniform smiles at the camera and holds up a certificate. He is standing next to an Americ

Have you ever just needed a friendly smile and maybe a little help with directions?

Mr. Ruffin was not the only guard with a sparkling reputation. In 1957, a donor wrote not only to express how pleased she was with the popularity of her objects that were then on display, but she also praised the guards. To Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood, the Smithsonian guards possessed “a little extra something” that added to visitor enjoyment. She noted they had a “rich vein of humor, a friendliness, an interest in people that is warmly human, and an attitude that seems to imply ‘If you have been interested enough to come here from far away you can count on us to help you enjoy the place.’”

We’ve all had that moment of panic when our wallet is just not where it’s supposed to be, right?

In 1977, Office of Exhibits Central employee Emanuel Morgan found a checkbook and fifty dollars in cash at an intersection near the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. He and two other Smithsonian employees were able reach the woman who retrieved her lost items within the hour. Phew.

Today is World Kindness Day and we hope you’ll spread the love.

Related Resources

Leave a Comment

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.