Be Kind… Is it really that difficult?

Yes… as a matter of fact it is! Any more the default is to be rude because somehow we have been conditioned to think that kindness shows weakness… kind people don’t get what they want… kind people are push-overs. This realization hit me yesterday at Wal-Mart – yes, you read that correctly, Wal-Mart.

The task to return the tractor battery and get the battery core fee refunded was graciously bestowed upon me since, of course, I drive past Wal-Mart every day. Ok, no problem. I took in the battery completed with the receipt of the battery core fee (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t fret, it’s actually irrelevant!). I waited in line at the customer service desk. On my turn, I presented the battery and receipt to the nice young lady at the register. She was a new employee, or new to that area, and did not know quite how to complete the transaction. We needed to wait for assistance. She kept apologizing all over herself.  I assured her that I was in no hurry and waiting was no problem. She seemed terrified that I would be upset with her. Why? Had I given her a reason to think I was irritated or impatient? So, I smiled and made small talk with her until the more seasoned employee could walk her through the process.

Why do we expect others to be rude, mad, or  upset? Why don’t we expect people to be kind?

I finished my transaction and went on with my shopping. Picking up some bird seed, I saw a man struggling to raise himself from his scooter cart to reach a bird feeder on the top row. Naturally, I offered to reach it for him. He was able to complete the task himself, but he gushed with gratitude at my offer. I didn’t do anything. As I was at the register paying for my items, I saw the young customer service attendant again… this time she was at the next register. She had forgotten our transaction, but she was certain we were friends. Kindness leaves a positivity in its wake.

Last weekend, my students performed the classic Broadway play HARVEY. I was so proud of them (yes, I’m a high school theatre instructor). One of the lines from the play has been ringing in my ears recently. Elwood P. Dowd, the man who has the invisible 6 foot tall what rabbit named Harvey as his friend, said, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’  Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” Elwood’s character demonstrates genuine interest in all of those around him. He looks into their eyes and wants to know WHO they are not merely WHAT they can do for him. This is what kindness is all about – looking at another human being and seeing that person then choosing that person’s happiness over your own.

Too often we are so engrossed in our own lives or our own thoughts or our own PHONES to see the people around us.  Recently I was at a flea-market-like establishment with a friend. As she and I walked through the merchandise, strangers spoke to me, so I replied. Later Tasha said, “You must have a ‘talk to me’ face. No one ever talks to me.” I do… because I actually look at people – in the eyes – and I smile. That’s enough.

I have been a high school teacher for twenty years. In those years I have earned the respect of my students – and I have heard that many feared me. Yep, I’m tough. I don’t take excuses. I have high expectations for my students. So, I am not always popular. Last year a former student who is now a friend of mine on Facebook… He posted one of those “Like for the truth” type posts, so I did it.  I clicked LIKE.  Soon after, in my messages was a  note from David. He said, “You are a genuinely kind person.” I laughed it off and replied, “Oh no!  My cover as the mean teacher is blown!” When he responded he explained that they all knew I had high expectations for all of them and that that was fine… but they also knew that beyond any doubt that I had their backs…which was true.  I would fight for each one of them or give them the coat off my back if they needed it.

But does being kind make me a push over? Sometimes. Do people take advantage of my kindness and use me? Yep. Am I always kind? Of course not.  Do I get irritated and annoyed? Yep.  Am I perfect? Not even close.

In the photo I have attached to this blog is a book I have recently read: AM I BEING KIND by Michael J. Chase. I highly recommend it.

Let’s consider this post PART I of my Kindness Series. There is so much more to talk about. Please comment and join the conversation.