What If Today…We Chose Kindness?

“The ideas that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty and truth.”

~Albert Einstein

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?

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14 thoughts on “What If Today…We Chose Kindness?

    • Stan, when I first started blogging you stood out as one of the kindest persons. We won’t get far beating ourselves up for past unkindnesses. I cringe at mine. But what’s most difficult for me is managing the hurt when someone is unkind to me.I don’t take time to process my feelings and I let my sadness influence how I interact with the next person I run in to. I think that that’s common. But, like you, I really want to do better.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Stan!

  1. I sure try to be kind..it is hard though for people to do that when they are having their own “Bad Day” I think.
    After working with older people for many years, who all had problems of some sort..well it’s not only part of the job..but it really teaches you and SHOWS what a kind word or touch can do to make a difference!
    I too could do better!

    As Always ~*~

    • I love working with older people, Ann. Some of my older friends that I’ve been a sort of caregiver to can be so set in their ways and cantankerous! I’ve had more than a few who get very upset about little things like silverware placement in dishwashers and the ways towels have to be folded in thirds with not tag showing, among other eccentricities that I shook my head at. Friends of theirs would tell me to not let them abuse me, but I honor their requests and do it their way. They have so little control in their life as they age. So….why not?
      You’re right…catch me on a bad day and it’s not so easy to remember not to be selfish and self-centered. It’ll all work out. Right?

  2. It is always a good thing to treat others with kindness; even when you know you can’t ‘fix’ their problem.

    It’s not hard to do so w/out any strings attached, but hard to do so completely; such as you did w/ your money. You want to have compassion, but how much especially if their is money and possibly your safety involved?

    Tough questions indeed.

    • I know, Bill. I do things very differently now that I have a family. I used to be a little reckless, maybe I still have that tendency, but I’ve toned it down a bit ’cause the last thing I want is to jeopardize anyone because I put others before them. That is hard. But it’s wise, too.
      Thanks, Bill. I appreciate you!

  3. You have made awesome choices! I try to be like that everyday. Sometimes it’s second nature to be kind in difficult situations. Sometimes it takes a little more thought. I had parents who set good examples for me growing up. I am sure your kids will think the same when they grow up. Many days I am “tested” with a mother who is now house bound but the joy I get out of the little things I do for her I is amazing. I shop for her each week and also try to buy her a little gift of something new to try. She is grateful. I took one of her old picture albums that was literally falling apart and made it new again. She has bragged and bragged about how much that meant to her. I also try very hard to do little things for “strangers” but I should do more. Thanks for reminding us that the simple act of kindness is important everyday!

  4. Michele, you exude joy! I can tell that you’re having fun serving your mom! Sometimes it’s easier to be kind to strangers than those we live with. Isn’t it? Your mom is very lucky that she has a daughter that cares to spend time with her. Sounds like you have a great relationship!
    It’s a balancing act- serving but not being or doing so much that someone feels like we don’t think they’re capable.
    I think that helping someone feel needed might be one of the kindest things we can do. You?

  5. This will sound selfish and perhaps narcissistic, but I measure my mood based upon my response to others. When I want to scream at people for little things I know it is time for this old man to go find a quiet place to hang out so I can recharge my batteries.

  6. I used to volunteer at a drop-in centre in Vancouver’s east side where drunks, addicts and homeless people wandered in and out every day. My job there was not to coach or give advice, but rather to offer tea and conversation, mostly in the form of listening. Those hours of listening – really being there and hearing what was shared – changed me. Your experience with the old woman reminded me how grateful I am of that experience. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Joe! I was sitting with my son in church months ago and he looked over at me and nudged me and said. “Look at everybody, Mommy. You’re the only one who’s smiling.” I don’t know why I just thought of that except that it was such a simple thing to do and it made a difference to one person at an unexpected moment. It’s those little moments that make life so rich. You know?

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