It was early morning and I was leaving my apartment for the day, exiting down the back, outdoor stairwell of my building. When I reached the gate at the bottom, a woman, a fellow tenant, was on her way inside after taking her dog out for a morning walk. We met facing each other on opposite sides of the gate. We both moved away from the door simultaneously as if to allow the other to pass first and then both stepped forward to walk through when we realized the other would wait for us…I’m sure you’ve done this dance before with another stranger – “After you.” “No, please, after you.” You get the picture.
We chuckled at our mirrored movements. I went through the gate first and exchanged simple pleasantries with the lady – said good morning, remarked on the beautiful, sunny day ahead, petted her dog, wished her a good day and went along my way.
As I’m walking through the back parking lot toward the blue line station, I hear the woman shout after me, somewhat timidly yet sincerely:
“Thank you for being kind to me!”
My footsteps slowed and I glanced back over my shoulder to ensure she was speaking to me. Sure enough, she was looking directly at me and waving. Caught off guard, I paused for a moment before waving back and shouting “Of course!”
I was baffled. She thanked me for being kind? It was simply small talk…
Our whole interaction lasted probably less than three minutes. To me, it wasn’t a big deal, to me it was second nature. But this brief, simple, friendly conversation obviously made an impact. Her response reminded me that for some, perhaps many, common courtesies and kindness are a rare occurrence.
As I recall this particular morning, I realize this isn’t the first time someone thanked me for being kind. It’s actually happened quite a few times before. Often the circumstances are generally the same in the sense that there’s nothing exceptional about the scenario or the act of kindness. The giver of the kindness mentally chalks it up to “Well, it’s what anyone else would have done.” But in today’s world I feel that statement is tested constantly. Especially when you consider how recipients of kindness react, like the lady in my building. There’s something about the way these individuals express their gratitude for the kindness they’re shown that stops you in your tracks. Something in the expression on their face and the tone of their voice that conveys that kindness is not extended to them often.
I wish I were writing with the knowledge that kindness is extended to everyone, without question and without hesitation, and although I’m an optimist I’m certainly not oblivious. I understand that kindness is currently not as prevalent of a force in our world as it ought. It doesn’t take a genius to deduct that we’ve lost something along the way. While I acknowledge that truth and accept it for what it currently is, I also believe that what’s lost can be found. I believe that kindness can make a comeback. Perhaps more importantly, it needs to make a comeback.
I know, I’m sounding a bit like a hippie, and no, I’m not asking for everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” That’s way too cheesy, even for me.
But what I am asking, better yet challenging you readers to do is to offer just a bit more kindness to those around you. It doesn’t need to be grand gestures, sometimes less can definitely mean more.
I challenge you to glance up from your ever-so-captivating phone as you walk down the street and say “Hello” when you pass another person. I challenge you to say “Pardon me” when navigating your way through a crowd. I challenge you to truly listen when someone speaks to you. I challenge you to say “Hi, how are you?” and mean it; be invested in hearing the response. I challenge you to say “thank you” to your bus driver. I challenge you to help a mother lift her baby stroller over a curb or stair. I challenge you to hold the door. I challenge you to leave the closer parking space for another driver. I challenge you to send a thank you note. I challenge you to introduce yourself to your new neighbor…
I challenge you to allow your kindness to make an impact on someone else.
You never know, you may be the only glimmer of kindness someone sees all day.
Thank you for being kind.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi