What Happened to Being Kind?
I’m seeing a lot of posts about this topic lately. How kindness and consideration for others seems to have gone by the wayside. Why is that, do you think? Is it because we’re so inward focused? The “Me Generation” overly concerned with getting “their fair share”? I even saw somewhere that, politically, kindness is considered “weakness”. Um, EXCUSE ME?!!! And that helping those less fortunate than ourselves is a political quagmire and politicians should stay away from it. Uh, WHAT THE HECK? (Sorry. Backing away now from the politics.)
I find rudeness and lack of courtesy everywhere. On the freeway, where other drivers speed up to prevent you from changing lanes in front of them. In grocery stores, where carts bump into you and the “drivers” of those carts glare, as if you’d jumped in front of them and forced them to hit you. In sports – bounty, anyone? Rudeness on the internet is big business, as well.
Bloggers will slam something – whether it be a book, a political figure (okay, that’s too easy), a TV show, a movie or their neighborhood – and it will go viral. Others will get on the slam-wagon and write things in a blog comment they would never say to someone’s face. That blogger will then get their 15 minutes of blog fame, which was most likely their total intent. But will it last? (Does it ever last?)
Where’s the love? Where’s the joy?
Since I started commuting to work again, I have gone out of my way to do an experiment. I used to be a Type A driver when I commuted, 12 or so years ago – swearing and honking and speeding and tailgating and damn the consequences. I found out a few months ago that I don’t react well to that any more – it makes me angry and my stomach gets tied up in knots. So now, I go out of my way to be kind.
I make sure now to leave a lot of room between me and the car in front of me, so other cars
can merge onto the freeway. I put fun music on, not the news – news makes me tense. Country music or hard-driving rock n’ roll will allow me to relax. I’ve been doing this for 7 months, and I find I can enjoy my drive home now.
This experiment has bled into other areas of my life. I let people go in front of me at the grocery store when they only have a couple of items, and I’ve got a full basket. I smile at people I accidently bump into – or almost bump into – and usually get a smile back. I hold doors open at my local coffee shop for men or women with kids and two or three drinks to juggle.
Chores that my boys usually do, I’ll do every now and then to lighten their load. I try to corral my shoes and put them in my closet, rather than sprinkle them all over the house. I pay bills when no one else is around, so I can whimper in private and not disturb anyone. I make breakfasts for whomever is up, and I do my best to make dinner every night – cooking and feeding my family is one of my ways of showing my love. Most of the home stuff is second nature, but every now and then I have to really concentrate on being kind.
It’s not much to ask, really. We can never know the circumstances of someone else’s life; what they’re going through, whether good or bad. We’re all in basically the same boat, after all. Say please and thank you, especially to those you love. Give a smile, a few extra car lengths in front of you, stop to let someone cross the street. It’s not much and yet, it can mean a lot to a complete stranger.
I have one story that illustrates this vividly. It happened to me about ten years ago; I was newly-laid off during the whole dot com bust, and the hubby had taken a day job down in Santa Monica. I had the time, was in the area, so I parked and was going to meet him for lunch.
I wasn’t anything special – I think I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt, maybe a blazer. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze – it was a beautiful autumn day and I was going to see my beloved husband. I guess I was smiling.
I was in the Wilshire Boulevard crosswalk when I noticed a man a half-block north of me. He was staring at me; as I crossed the street, he walked toward me, picking up his pace. I had just turned to go up the steps of my husband’s office building, when he stopped me.
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you.” He looked me in the eyes – an attractive man in his late 30s, business attire -and he said, “But I just had to tell you – you are a beautiful woman.” Then he hurried on his way.
Now, cold reflection says he probably thought I was someone else; but his statement that day made me feel like a beautiful woman. He didn’t have to say it; he could easily have just gone past me without a word. But he took the time to make me – a complete stranger – feel like a million bucks. I absolutely floated the rest of the day, and the memory of that encounter is crystal clear. (I’m interesting – I have “good energy” – but I am Not Beautiful in the classical sense and never have been. And I’m okay with that!)
Being kind should be second nature. It isn’t. How much would the world (or at least our own little corner of it) improve, if we all started being kind? (I am talking about deliberate acts of kindness, not random ones.) I’m certainly not perfect; but I am trying, very hard, to change my ways. Kindness, and with my eyes open (on the one hand, I tend to be overly suspicious; on the other hand, I get sucked in very easily).
What act of kindness impacted your life, that you remember to this day? I’d really love to hear them! Hugs, everyone – hugs!
A couple bloggers that go out of their way to help those around them: check out Jennifer Louden at Dispatches of Love & Insight; and Susannah Conway’s Blog . I’m new to Susannah, but I’m loving what I see.
Coming up this Friday – wine reviews – New Zealand, Italy and South Africa!