It’s rare to know how much someone else is hurting…
Even if you’re standing next to them…
(Regardless – even if you’re their spouse, parent, sibling, best friend, significant other, and especially if they’re a stranger.)
That person could be feeling totally broken, but we couldn’t realize.
Make kindness a habit. Always. No matter the provocation.
A few years ago I had a heart-breaking experience with a grouchy security guard at a library in Florida. We had been traveling fulltime for a while and regularly used the WiFi at the public libraries to work during the day. This was the only library, over the space of two years, that had a “be silent” policy and a guard to back it up.
He prowled the stacks of books seeking those talking out loud or on their mobile cell phone to “shush” them with a scowl and to point to the outside door. (Yes, he found me twice – I was “that” woman.) It both humiliated me and made me grumpy too, even though I was clearly in the wrong.
At the end of the day, I sat outside on a bench waiting for Rob to pick me up. (The truck was parked a fair ways away.) I saw the grumpy guard on another bench. It was so tempting to ignore him. And yet…
Be Kind. Always. To yourself and others.
(Do you ever get those inner promptings? I do. And I’ve learned not to ignore them.)
So I got up and walked over to the grumpy guard’s bench and sat beside him. I started the conversation about the weather. (You’ll find that’s often the opening line with a Canadian… I don’t know why.) Since it was Florida in the winter, the sun was shining and warm, it was a good start. Anyway. He began to share.
He shared his whole life story with me – I guess I appeared to be a friendly ear.
He hadn’t had an easy life. And the latest blow was his cancer diagnosis.
The grumpy guard was scheduled for treatment the next week and he was afraid. He wasn’t on speaking terms with his siblings and It didn’t seem like he had a support system around him. But for those few moments, I was privileged to listen and put a hand on his arm to convey that someone cared.
He told me he believed in God, so I assured him that I would pray for him. By the time Rob pulled up in the truck I had gotten a few smiles out of that grumpy guard. I hope, with all my heart, that my kindness made a difference. Even if it was for only a few moments.
There was no way I would have known his story. And his fear, hurt, loneliness, and isolation. I’m chagrined that I just saw an old man who “shushed” me. At least at first. However, I’m not going to beat myself up – I’ve learned from that experience. Hopefully, I won’t make the same mistake again.
Plant kindness. What grows from being kind to others is beautiful and nourishing.
Kind or Critical?
In case you were wondering, criticism is not kind. Criticism is like a poisonous weed.
I’m imagining criticism – that deliberate judgment of others – is like hogweed. Hogweed’s sap burns and scars.
If you try and mow or weed-whack a hogweed plant, it’ll just send up new growth. Isn’t that exactly like being judgmental? Start criticizing one action or aspect of a person’s character, and you’ll quickly find other points to criticize… And hogweed might appear to be Queen Anne’s Lace or Angelica, just like criticism can be disguised as helpful advice, but it’s not. Get involved in criticism and it’ll burn. And scar. You.
Plant a Garden of Kindness
Now, imagine a garden filled with beautiful flowers, fruit, and vegetables. It’s nourishing for the soul and body.
That’s just like kindness – when we watch others be kind, isn’t it a joy to behold? When we, ourselves, are beneficiaries of a kindness, isn’t it nourishing to every part of our life? And, when we are the authors of an act of kindness, isn’t it something we rejoice over with the other person?
Make this a day to sow seeds of kindness.
(Toss those critical thoughts/words on the burn pile!)
Your kindness has an impact. It’s more than just that act, it’s a seed for something greater.
Perhaps you’ll never see how your act of kindness changes the world around you, but I believe we sow seeds with our kindnesses from which gratitude will grow. Sometimes those seeds will languish, and do nothing. But there will be times where those seeds will grow into a blossom of gratitude.
If you see value in a being thankful, then create an environment where others will have specific reasons to feel thankful themselves.