This week’s post is out a day earlier than usual because today is World Kindness Day. Now you all know that kindness is something near and dear to my heart. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” I do know this is a sweeping statement. “Always” and “never” are words one should generally avoid. In our ordinary lives, however, kindness is so close to always possible that we should let it slide just this once. (Let me tell you, every job I’ve had where I was employed by someone else, I worked in customer service. I do believe that makes me something of an expert.)
Let’s start by discussing what kindness is not. It is not letting everyone else have their way all the time. It is not giving more than you have, be it in terms of money, goods, or energy. It is not behaving in a kind manner for the purpose of looking good to someone else. It is not ever, ever, ever making excuses for other people’s cruelty.
So now that we know what it is not, what is it? Kindness is any act carried out for the purpose of helping someone without harming anyone else. That means ANY act. Did you pick up a toy tossed by a baby whose parents were too busy trying to get some nourishment themselves to have noticed? Kindness. Did you clench your teeth and step away from your desk instead of telling Nathan from accounting* where to put his request for the expense report you have filed no fewer than three times? Kindness. (*I don’t know any Nathans in accounting so if you happen to be one, please know you were singled out by chance alone.) Did you say no to organizing the family reunion knowing that the supposedy simple task of keeping your children alive and functioning consumes pretty much your entire life right now? Yep. Kindness.
In the fiction work The Ruby Knight by David Eddings, there is a Pandion Knight called Sir Kalten who is technically a servant of the church. Practically speaking, however, he is far more earthly and a man of direct action more than anything spiritual. At one point, Sir Kalten bestows his blessing upon some guards who have opened the gate ahead of his party rather than offering them traditional payment. When questioned, he flippantly states, “…who knows? My blessing might actually be worth something.” While this scene was humorously characterizing Kalten, there is some wisdom to be found here.
How many times do we spread blessings around us without even being aware that that’s what we’re doing? For example, when we sincerely compliment someone’s best efforts, this is an every day blessing. To be sure, a compliment will not put food on the table, but perhaps it will be the push to keep that person doing their best work. Perhaps their ability to do their best work will lead to a tip, or a promotion, or a better job elsewhere. Alternately, feeling appreciated in that moment may simply be reason enough for them to get out of bed the next day and try again.
In a less dramatic scenario, yesterday I was at a drug store getting some photos printed. When I pulled them from the machine, I saw that there was an extra inch of white photo paper on the side of my 5×7 prints. Taking them to the register, I asked the cashier if I had made a mistake operating the machine or if that always happened. The young man replied that it happens often and offered to trim them for me. A very small kindness, but it made me happy. When he came back to the register with my neatly trimmed photos, he not only thanked me profusely for waiting, he actually told me I was “so awesome for being patient.” I’m not sure what events led him to believing a person politely and patiently waiting for good customer service warranted the use of the word awesome**, but clearly I had blessed him without being aware in the slightest. (**I’m not sure but I could hazard a fairly accurate guess. Customer service, remember?) Additionally, moving on with my day I had a very warm feeling of awesomeness surrounding me like a cozy quilt. Blessings spawn blessings. That’s how it works.
Running up to the holiday season as a cashier in a craft store one year, I adopted the motto, “Relentlessly Kind.” It didn’t matter how busy we were, nor how angry or frustrated a customer might be. When they reached my register, I treated them with kindness. I could not always satisfy them, but I could always treat them with respect, understanding, and gentleness. This began as a stubborn refusal to let someone else’s grumpiness bring me down, yet it served others as well. My coworkers knew they could count on a smile from me. A majority of the angry or frustrated customers calmed down at the least, and I swiftly lost count of the number of times I was told my demeanor brought a bit of joy to a tiring shopping trip. Guess what that did? It made it easier for me to be respectful, understanding, and gentle with the next person, and the next. Once again, kindness spawned more kindness.
Please don’t ever feel your sincere offerings of kindness are too small, or wasted. Even if the direct recipient doesn’t seem to appreciate it, a bystander might, and perhaps the recipient is affected in ways you cannot see. As Sir Kalten said, “…who knows?” Furthermore, the very act of being kind makes it easier for you to be happy in your own skin.
Remember too, these words by musician, motivator, and funny woman Jana Stanfield: “I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
Brightest blessings to you, my friends. Take them and spread them around like glitter in a kindergarten class. ~Sunny