“The ideas that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty and truth.”
We’ve all heard the story of the man on the bus with his unruly children. His children were misbehaving and upsetting the other travelers, one of whom asked if he could help the father settle them down.
“Thank you,” the father said in response to the stranger’s offer. “We were just at the hospital. Their mother died and they’re having a hard time.”
What if the stranger had been cruel with his words? What if he only thought about himself and took the role of spokesman for the other travelers, and demanded that the father do something about his children? Can you imagine the outcome? Or how much worse the father would feel?
And what about the ripple effect of our kindness and cruelty?
The opportunity to be kind instead of cruel presents itself every day. Sometimes we don’t know it was there until we see and understand how our cruel words would have fallen on someone and we breathe a sigh of relief because we never let them fall from our lips.
I watch my children’s’ behavior a lot and look for signs of the negative ripple effect…a day void of kindnesses. When they lash out at each other I know that they’ve had a hard day. It would be easy for me to jump into the flow of negativity and let it consume me to the point that I send it back to them or the next unlucky soul to cross my path.
But when I stop and consider the needed healing that a smile, a hug, or a listening ear can make room for, I absorb the bad and do my best to carry their burden with them instead of turning my back on them simply because I don’t like their behavior.
And then the magic happens: the splinter rises to the surface. Then the tears start to flow, exposing the pain and cruelty that was inflicted.
The burden and darkness start dissipating, and love starts making its way in soon after.
And the ripple starts flowing in the opposite direction.
I hope to do that more often.
When I was in my 20’s I worked for a bit at a French pastry shop on Main Street. I always worked alone and I was typically overwhelmed because there were a lot of business people who swarmed in for an hour every day.
One day, as I stood behind the counter, I watched as the front door opened half way and an older disheveled woman poked her head in and viciously called to me,” DON’T look at me with that CAT smile!” And then she walked away returning a little while later. This time she came all the way in.
The customers who’d witness the strange confrontation said nothing. I was dumbfounded to be blind-sided with such rudeness, but I kept smiling, hiding the hurt. I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.
She slid into a chair and sat. I asked her if would like something to eat.
No, she had no money, she quipped.
So I paid for her lunch. And she came back for the next two days for more until she asked for money for a bus ticket home and disappeared out of my life. My friends chastised me for being so gullible and such an easy mark for “someone like her” to take advantage of.
But I knew exactly what she was doing. The way I saw it I had three choices, maybe four.
- Ignore her.
- Feed her, but nothing more.
- Do what I felt was right, no strings attached.
- (here’s where you give me another option…)
Nobody backed me on my choice to “let go and let God”. And I didn’t really care.
She may have walked away laughing at my gullibility. But I walked away with a memory of a friend that I had for a few days who chatted with me as she ate food that I’d prepared for her. She shared some of her stories and brightened my days. Her life was rough.She didn’t ask me to fix it, and I wouldn’t have known how to or where to start anyway. I was just so happy to see her smile every day as she learned to trust me. I really felt connected to her. I didn’t pity her. I didn’t judge her. My motives were all about friendship and showing up as myself for the brief time we shared.
I will never forget her smile and kind eyes.
I’m pleased with the choices I made. And I’m pretty sure that the Man Upstairs is, too.
- Do you think it’s important to be kind always?
- Is it hard for you to be kind with no strings attached?