What is kindness? Webster’s says that kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. I’m afraid that in my “youth” I didn’t excel at kindness, and it’s a character flaw that will always haunt me. Don’t misunderstand me, I was never on a mission to be cruel or mean to anyone or for any reason, but I also never went out of my way to be KIND. I do NOW, now that I’ve lived a little of life, now that I’ve been on the receiving end of kindness and what it can do to change a life. I guess at least I got that in my corner, I’ve managed to learn and to grow as a person.
Funny, I wrote a whole paper about this topic back in college – in a class called “Social Problems in Today’s World”, it was a comparison of two times in my life when I made a conscious decision to be kind or not. Time #1. I was broke, I literally had $ 40.00 cash on hand and a negative balance in my checking account, and I was driving down a very rural lonely stretch of highway and I saw a man sitting by the road with a sign saying that he would do ANY work for money to feed his kids. On that day ~ I chose kindness. I went to the local grocery store and took my last $40 and bought them food, not a lot but it was something and I knew at least that those kids would eat that night – even if it was only peanut butter and jelly. I had food at home and gas in my tank and a job, payday was in 3 days – I certainly could USE the $40 but I was not nearly in NEED the way that man was on THAT day. When I pulled up I popped the trunk, and each kid came to carry a bag and hugged me and thanked me. Dad was crying and asked me if for my information so that he could “pay me back”, I told him to pay it forward instead – gave him a hug and peeled out so that he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes and so that he didn’t have to feel uncomfortable about the tears in HIS eyes. When we discussed this example in my class I heard things like, what if he was a drug addict, what if he was a liar – etc. Well, quite frankly I’ll never know what his circumstances were, if he was “a bum” or a “man in need”, but what I DO know is that those kids did NOT go to bed hungry that night and no matter what the reasons for his situation, I slept better that night.
Fast forward ten-fifteen years later, I saw a man holding a sign….this sign just said his children were hungry not that he wanted work, but same general principle. The other differences were that this “dad” was not in his front yard with the kids, he had positioned himself at a plaza, no kids in sight. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have kids, just setting the scene and what was “different” about it in my eyes. None-the-less, I felt the tug at my heart thinking of a child being literally hungry tonight. In MY life things were much better then, I was not wealthy or anything ~ far from it ~ but I was doing well. Good job, bought a house, new car, bills were paid and I had money for extra’s – talk about blessed, so I pulled into that plaza and I went to the ATM and I took out $100 cash. I then got back in my car and drove over to where the man was standing and parked behind where he was. As I pulled up I saw him open a back pack, I sat and watched…he took out (but kept hidden) his cellphone, and there was a mcdonalds bag in there where he grabbed some fries from he was finishing his lunch….and I thought hmmmmm….not today buddy and I put it in reverse and backed out with my hundred bucks still in hand. In my class as we discussed this people came up with things like, maybe the phone had no service, maybe someone bought him that food and handed it to him (as in HE didn’t waste money buying himself burgers while his kids were hungry); and those things may be true, once again I’ll never know.
My point is that you really do NEVER know. I don’t care to be “duped” or to help someone who’s a scam artist, just as none of us do…and in my heart of hearts I hope that “on the whole” we as a people are better than that type of behavior. I know that is not the case 100% but just “overall” I like to believe that we are more moral than that. So I’ll never know, I’ll never know if I made the right decision the day I spent my last $40, I’ll never know if I made the right decision the day I drove off with my $100 still in hand, I can only HOPE that I did. I relied on my gut instinct and hope that in both cases I made the better decision.
At the end of the day it is not about the money, or my individual decision in each case but it’s about KINDNESS and compassion, “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate” the reality is that in our day to day life that is FREE. Whether it’s holding a door, helping someone financially, being emotionally supportive to someone suffering through a rough time, giving someone a ride, taking the time to let someone know you are thinking of them, smiling at a stranger who looks down, the list of possible ways to be KIND is endless and I for one continue to try to practice it more. To anyone who knows me personally that might be a shock because I’m not known for having the most warm and fuzzy personality on the east coast, but in fact I do have a big heart and I feel things very deeply.
I’m so grateful for the HUGE NUMBER of AMAZING people I’ve had (and have) in my life who have been kind to me, my goodness if I tried to make a list that would be a whole blog in itself…it boggles my mind and I feel so undeserving at times, but grateful none-the-less….
So basically this was my public service announcement to remember to be KIND – you don’t know if the fat lady you are scorning is on her way to gym and struggling to lose weight, you don’t know if the addict you are looking down on has struggled today just to stay clean “just for today”, you don’t know if that man with the ‘stinky clothes’ is stinky because he didn’t have hot water to take a shower today as his electric is off – bottom line is you DON’T KNOW – everyone does have a story – usually a very long intricate and sometimes painful one…and the only thing you DO KNOW is that they are a human being and have success, heartaches, trials and tribulations, failures, love and pain just like the rest of us – so have some compassion as you move through your day and remember that if you find yourself needing a little “kindness” one day you’ll be so grateful if you run across someone who practices sharing kindness….
X-mas gift list for 2015: Kindness, Compassion, Generosity, Goodwill, Tolerance, Understanding, Unselfishness, Grace and Affection….gifts that will last the recipients all year round! Thanks for reading.