Kindness Counts

I’ve been thinking about kindness lately.

scatter-kindness-kindness-quoteKindness matters. Being friendly, courteous, generous – yes, those small but gentle acts matter.

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you It’s golden—and a rule—for a reason. C’mon, who among us wants someone to be short and snippy to us? Who thinks it’s acceptable, tolerable, even funny, for someone to be downright rude and mean? So we treat others as we like to be treated. It’s not that difficult.

So why is it that all too often we feel bruised by others’ unkindness? I guess the other saying is true as well: hurt people hurt people. We all deal with some of life’s aches and pains, and in turn we inflict those on others. Yuck.

Some kindness quotes:

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” –Seneca

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” –J.M. Barrie

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kindness doesn’t mean squishy-sappy-soft. Sometimes the kindest words can be difficult to say and even more difficult to hear. Sometimes we have to tell people uncomfortable truth; not telling them would be unkind. And yet, even the hardest kind words can be uttered in friendship, with gentle courtesy and great generosity. With love’s nudging motivation.

Earlier this week, I went to the pharmacy to pick up three prescriptions for three family members. The line felt uncomfortably long. I forgot my phone = no easy distraction. I studied the aisle in which we stood: adult-strength low-dose aspirin. Muscle relaxing pads. Athletic tape. I waited patiently.

Finally the man ahead of me was called to the counter. He asked, “Can I pay for this here?” An extra-large bottle of alcohol, cobalt blue, maybe vodka.

“Sure, yes,” the response.

I waited some more while a new staff person clocked in and, then finally, my turn. She had to pull up each of our accounts separately. And as it turned out, my doctor called in the wrong prescription.

Meanwhile, we heard: “Sir, why you look at me like that?” The pharmacist at the next counter sounded agitated.

Big Blue Bottle Man responded brusquely: “What are you talking about?”

“You throw your hands up. Your eyes look mean. I’m just doing my job.”

“What are you talking about?” His anger increased in volume.

“I’m doing my job. I’m not sure why you treat me with rudeness.”

My pharmacist gal and I, we made BIG eyes at each other. She glanced down the counter at her co-worker. I stared downward, not wanting to make eye contact with the guy only a few feet away.

“You’re an idiot. You call me rude, I call you an idiot.” He stormed off. She called Security. He blustered back, yelled some more, and stomped away again.

Later, while Bridget sorted the prescription confusion, I noticed the blue bottle behind the counter. Perhaps his prescription and liquor didn’t mix—was that the problem? Either way, the employee appropriately confronted him for his lack of kindness. His response lacked all human kindness.

Bridget did her best for me, and ultimately was unable to get me what I need. At least for that day. She smiled and made eye contact. She asked questions and listened. She put forth maximum effort, and it showed.

As I left—without the prescriptions I came for—I saw the manager. I grabbed his attention and made sure he knew that Bridget had done a great job. Flustered, he responded, “Oh, yes! Yes, Bridget is great. Um, thanks.” Clearly an enthusiastic response from a customer had not been his managerial norm.

I got in the car, my mind instantly returning to the day’s festering worries. Suddenly, they didn’t fit. I turned on the radio, loud, and sang along to the Modest Mouse song, Float On. Kindness will help us float on even if things end up a bit too heavy.

Yesterday Tween and I went to the Town Faire. He spun the wheel at one of the booths and won a rubber bracelet. The guy working the booth asked if Tween wanted to sign the iKind pledge, which started as an initiative at Tween’s middle school a few years ago and is now spreading to a community-wide message. Because, not just middle schoolers, but we all should be kind.iKind

The guy asked me to sign, which seemed both unnecessary and obvious: Of Course I will sign, because of course I intend to be kind! I don’t understand why it’s not obvious to everyone, why there needs to be an initiative. As we walked away the man said, “Thank you for supporting kindness.”

Seriously? What are we coming to when we need to sign a pledge to support kindness?

Kindness Feels Good! And kindness is contagious.

I don’t want to be Grouchy Blue Bottle Guy. I want to be Bridget, doing her best. I want to be Me, accepting Bridget’s best even when it didn’t produce my desired result. I want to be kind!

Which reminds me of another song, Natalie Merchant singing: You’ve been so kind and generous. For your kindness, I’m in debt to you. For everything you’ve done, I’m bound to thank you for it.

Sing it loud!

Generous and Free

warning

Warning: Reading the Bible can lead to unexpected changes in behavior.

“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Psalm 112:5 NIV

I read this verse in the morning, as I often do, and asked God what He wanted to say. I reflected on our recent generosity; we’re cleaning out the garage and donating wildly to two of our favorite local mission partners, one that ministers primarily to poor children while the other ministers to homeless men. We’ve given sports equipment, games, school supplies, clothes, and home goods. In addition, just last week a home in our small town burned to the ground and the family lost everything. We came up with a stack of clothes from our closets that might fit this family of four, at least one item brand new with tags.

Yet I suspected that wasn’t God’s point in giving me Psalm 112:5. So I waited.

picnic

On our way to one of our favorite Date Night activities, a picnic and a play, we stopped by the market to pick up dinner. Around the corner from the front door was a man with a sign: “Lost my job. Help me feed my family.” His family sat on a nearby ledge. We kept walking.

As we entered the market, I might as well have bumped into a brick wall labeled “generous.” Though I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse, that one word resounded in my ears, bounced around my brain like a physical pain. So as we bought our picnic we bought this family their own picnic.

I’m not writing this to toot our own horn. Honestly, friends, I felt like I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I got to carry out God’s direction.

I’m sure they expected we’d avoid eye contact again, but this time we handed the family a big Caesar salad, a rotisserie chicken, and a loaf of artisanal bread along with plastic flatware and napkins. You’d have thought we’d presented them with the king’s own feast. Their faces lit up, betraying their true hunger. I looked into the eyes of this beautiful teenage girl close in age to my own kids, this mama and papa humbled by hard times.

Psalm 112:5 promises “Good will come…” That wasn’t my motivation, but I will tell you this: the good came as the young girl looked at me and said, “God bless you.” I need nothing more.