Lessons in Kindness

Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

On Wellness Wednesday, I try to post on a topic related to wellness.

On Monday, I posted quotes about kindness.  I try to be kind, to live my life in a way that spreads kindness, but I’m only human, after all.  And sometimes the Universe presents me with lessons to remind me that I can always be kinder.

I try to be kind both in action and thought.  Being kind in action means taking a moment to listen to someone, even when I don’t feel like it, saying “please” and “thank you,” smiling at others.  Being kind in thought is often harder for me.  It means not judging other people.

I walk a fine line with being kind in thought and wanting to watch real life drama.  Part of the problem is that I like gossip, not to judge necessarily, but because I like stories.  It doesn’t matter to me if they’re true or not; I like hearing them.  I like seeing bickering on Facebook because I like the story aspect of it.  I have to constantly remind myself that there are real people potentially being hurt by gossip and bickering, and that even though I might not spread it, just by being a listener, I’m complicit in negativity.

My lesson this week came from driving.  I was in a parking lot and about to pull out and make a right onto a throughway of the parking lot.  A man in a pickup was coming from where I couldn’t see him (there were bushes).  In all fairness, I wasn’t paying as close of attention as I could have been.  I wasn’t texting or anything like that, just sort of in my own thoughts.  I almost hit him.  When I say “almost,” I don’t mean that it was a close call or anything like that, just that I almost pulled out and hit him, but I slammed on my brakes with plenty of time to stop.

The man passed where I was, and then stopped in the middle of this throughway.  He was making rude gestures, and I was a little afraid that he was going to get out of his pick-up and come back to yell at me.  I was about three seconds from backing up and going the opposite way when he finally continued on his journey.

I was angry, and thinking things like, “Who does he think he is?” and “Everyone makes mistakes.  That jerk is acting like he never almost pulled out on someone.”  And other stuff too.

Then, I realized that I probably startled or even scared him.  When people get scared, they get angry.  The man probably didn’t know how to manage his anger and fear, so he stopped in the road, took a moment to compose himself, and basically blew off steam in a safe way.  It’s not like he came back to confront me or slammed on his brakes to “get even” or followed me.  He just stopped and was angry.  In all fairness, he was probably upset about the incident a lot longer than I was.

I hadn’t been thinking very kindly toward a man who had an upsetting thing happen in his day.  Yes, I was only unkind in my thoughts, but unkind thoughts can lead to unkind actions.  If I had stayed stuck in my self-righteousness, I could have taken it out on someone else.

Not long after that, I had an opportunity to practice the lesson.  I went to Goodwill to buy some picture frames, and I found way too many cool ones.  So as I stood at the checkout, heavy frames in my arms (of course I didn’t get a cart), the cashier was chatting with a male employee.  The two of them stood there for far too long as he bought some small item, gum or candy or something (I’m guessing he was on his lunch break).  My first thought was that they should notice me and move faster.  This time around, I caught myself and reminded myself that any retail establishment is fairly stressful work, and they were under no obligation to notice me.  I could just as easily open my mouth and ask to put my frames down, but I didn’t want to do that, which was not their fault.

When I got up to the cashier, she was not happy to see me.  She made some comment about being past her shift, and that her relief hadn’t shown up yet.  I smiled and validated her, and as we talked for a few minutes, she became more and more relaxed.  I could tell by the way she started smiling at me and calling me “hon.”  By the time she was done ringing me up, she went and held the door for me so that I could carry my heavy frames out more easily and returned my encouragement to “have a good day!” with “you too!”

Would I have been justified in responding to her as grumpily as she responded to me?  Maybe.  After all, the customer is always right… right?  But sometimes, being right isn’t worth the aggravation.  Because I decided to be kind, we both felt better when I left the store.

Remember that everyone you meet has a lesson to teach.  It’s up to you to figure out what that lesson is.

I’m going to work to be kinder today than I was yesterday.  And tomorrow, I’ll try to be kinder than I was today.

Have a beautiful day, everyone!