How to Remain Kind (Even When the Universe has Assigned You to the Dipsh*t Quadrant)

stormtrooper rain golf quail hollow pga
Waiting out a weather delay at Quail Hollow Club during the PGA Championship – on an ice cream cart. (Hayden Pacheco photo)

A bearded doofus stepped right in front of Hayden and me and a dozen other rain-soaked volunteers as we waited to board the bus last week at Quail Hollow Club.

A man short on words but high on intent drove a shoulder into my side as he sought a spot next to his wife and in front of me. A handful of other fellows jostled for position as we filed onto the bus, fighting for space that meant nothing – there was plenty of room.

Men, Hayden breathed out dismissively, and I couldn’t argue.

Embarrassing, not only for my gender, but for the human race. We’d volunteered to man an ice cream cart at the PGA Championship for the day, asking $5 for cherry explosion fruit ice and M&M ice cream sandwiches, and getting nothing but friendly responses.

All day in the sun, with friendly people the whole time, and it’s other volunteers who are the jerks, she added.

Kindness doesn’t always beget kindness. In fact, it seems like kindness rolls out a welcome that proclaims Wipe your feet here – and while you’re at it, cut in front of us, tailgate our car, or deal with us pissily as we ask what aisle tapioca is on.

Begin in kindness

The welcome mat rhetoric could be much worse, of course.

That doesn’t easily fit on a welcome (unwelcome?) mat, but you get the idea. We can stretch in our morning beds and plan for a kind, meaningful day, full of present living and consideration, but what happens the moment we pull out of the neighborhood?

We encounter a world lousy with fools, idiots and rascals who think we are the fools, idiots or rascals for being in their way.

In a day of engaging conversation and ice cream peddling, we witnessed admirable human behavior: Not the least of which was tipping, but also strangers buying strangers ice cream when stranger No. 2 discovered we were cash only.

These are the incidents that should propel us to sustain the kindness – not the shuffling, mindless rudeness found waiting to board a bus.

But just like one bad review, one ugly comment, one careless remark can derail a good mood, so too can a world seemingly ungrateful to the core and hell-bent on snuffing out your Zen like a New York Mets playoff tickets sale.

How can you keep the flame lit for kindness?

5 Ways to Stay Kind

1. Pause

Like a pissed-off hornet or a weekend sweep to the Florida Marlins, unkindness stings immediately. It begs for us to swipe back, with words, middle fingers, and vitriol. Pause for a count – or 17 – and observe what happens when we don’t respond so rapidly.

In practice: I’ve instituted a no-horn policy for driving. I won’t honk at anyone who has violated my preconceptions of safe driving. Also, no middle fingers. Goes without saying.

2. Forgive

Immediately. If we allow ourselves to harbor malcontent, it hurts us more than anyone else. Don’t introduce it. If you can’t forgive, forget. Turn. Move on. Lashing back not only kills your peaceful path, it also gives hatred an open lane.

In practice: A commute is not a race. Some would disagree. I’ve stopped waiting for tailgaters to pass me so that I could glare at them. Keep your eyes and spirit forward.

3. Stay humble

Zen snobbery is a thing. Just because you’ve felt in the moment like you could calm down the Dalai Lama, don’t get it crooked: We’re all flawed. The kindness high horse is all jackass, no noble steed. Looking down your nose at the less than Zen isn’t kind at all.

In practice: Did you get home without violating more than three traffic laws? Good. Don’t spend the next 30 minutes complaining about the rest of the world.

(Working on this.)

4. Wish for all the best for your nemesis

Man, this is hard. I’d sooner say, “good luck in the playoffs, dodgers!” than privately wish for the best for the guy who rushed to the register to get in ahead of Hayden and me at Food Lion – with a full load of groceries. I’d rather wish his card got declined.

In practice: Wish that the speeder gets to their destination safely. Resist the hope that karma will give him a flat tire. It’s in cherishing the seemingly uncherishible that we make progress.

5. Allow kindness to regenerate on its own

Even Gandhi probably had to step back and say, “dang, y’all. I’m done for the day.” The impact of one acting in kindness can spark a thousand kind acts; a kind person taking a breather doesn’t crumble the whole thing. Allow your default of kindness to grow again.

In practice: Stay home. Take the long way home. Stop along the way and visit a park or barbecue stand. Get your kindness flame out of the crosswinds for a minute.

Just as I wrapped up this post, a woman I work with approached my desk, with a tiny Snickers bar. Just spreading kindness she said, and yeah, to me, food giving is the ultimate in kindness.

That’s it though, you know?

She didn’t save anyone, or topple a monument, or deliver people out of Egypt. She walked around with a bag of bite-sized candy bars and spread kindness. And possibly renewing it in places it needed renewing, to continue the process.

How will you spread it today?

gibran quote kindness

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  1. ksbeth says:

    i love this, eli. there will always be the ‘elbowers’ of the world, who act without kindness and go out of their way to act in the contrary, but luckily there are always the ‘bite sized fun bar’ others who understand and practice what makes us all happy to be human and to be alive.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Beth. I think the elbowers sometimes enable the candy distributors to act.

  2. Spread kindness,love and optimism.Surely,this will waken some sleeping souls out there.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s a heckuva trifecta, Anabel. I hope that it will not only awaken sleeping souls, but assure the awakened ones that we’re doing good.

  3. Love this, but are you sure no middle fingers? Like, none? You made me smile, so you spread the love. Thank you.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The girls and I (shh!) use middle fingers as a sign of endearment to each other, Christine! And I love putting a smile on faces, especially yours. Thanks for being here.

  4. I don’t think you could have timed this post any better, Eli. It’s so discouraging to see / heart about what’s going on in the world and feel the lack of kindness or compassion in that. And it’s frightening, too. I just try to be kind to everyone I interact with. Honest as well, but kind first and foremost. I can’t say I have a step-by-step process for doing that, but having that idea in mind when I write, speak, or think is the right seed to plant to accomplish all that.

    Love the postscript at the end about your co-worker handing out candy, btw. I would have taken as a sign that I (or, rather, you) were writing this post at the right time. 😉

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I tried to line this one up just for you, SL! It’s something we all need to remember. The world can be frightening, but we have to see the great things that happen, too, the pervasive kindness that won’t let our world go to hell in a grocery bag.

      Kindness is contagious, and even if someone is immune, it does us good to give it.

      Kindness played into my to-be-told eclipse story, too, and it trumped the unkind actions around it.

      I think kindness in mind when you’re living life is a great way to keep it at the forefront, to lead with it.

      Her candy distribution was also right on time. I even told her about it!

  5. TheBethMN says:

    Great advice on being kind. It can be hard to show kindness when others step all over us, but we have to show our children that there is a better way to live. Keeping these in mind will definitely help with that.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Beth. Our kids are watching. They do what we do, not what we say!

  6. susank456 says:

    You are the voice of sanity, common courtesy and the long lost art of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. I believe that phrase has been stricken from the world’s memory.

    Wonderful post.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      My status as a voice of sanity, I’m sure, is a precursor to the appearance of the Four Horsemen, Susan!

      I think that phrase, ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ isn’t stricken from the world’s memory, it just needs a bit more exposure.

      Thank you for the kind words, my friend.

  7. kim airhart says:

    The world is heavy right now, right?! Kindness is important. As someone that drives 2 hours a day to and from work, being kind on the road has been a challenge but I do have the no horn rule. If someone is pissed at me on the road I just smile and wave.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The world *is* heavy right now, Kim, but it’s also very, very light. We have to remember that! The no horn rule (except to wake up the driver ahead of me leaving McDonald’s, who either fell asleep or got wrapped up in hot French fries – I can associate with either).

      I give a peace sign to angry motorists.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post, especially how you delivered your advice. No one is perfect, but giving effort to be kind is what counts.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you could use the advice! It’s amazing how even the effort of kindness is far greater than the exclusion of it.

  9. Anthea says:

    I needed to read this! I find it so easy to let one persons rudeness/snarky comment/nasty attitude spoil a moment instead of appreciating the positive/kind/thoughtful people I encounter the rest of the day.
    Thank you for including advice – I need to put this in practice.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m glad you found this post, Anthea! We all give so much weight to the negative, that we could pull the rug right out from under it and turn our days around.

      I know I need reminders on the advice, too.

  10. Court says:

    Why you gotta steal all my good blog posts man?!?!
    Today I spread kindness by mentally wishing my bf’s ex to feel better soon and hoping her job is going well, by editing some pics and sending them to the people who would want to see them, by thanking the guy who held the door open for me, and by biting my tongue when something snarky was said and I had something to add (not that what I had to add had value, but I had something to add.)

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You shouldn’t leave your post ideas just sitting there on your car seat, Court! I wrote it, but you lived it.

  11. You know a post is good–and important–when you take time on your vacation to comment on it and say, “Yes. This.”

    Being kind is such an easy thing, and I marvel at how people simply cannot practice kindness, even when they are offered it. But, like you say, kindness starts with us, and what we teach our children, and how we choose to live OUR lives.

    Of all the things in life that I believe have the potential to change the world, there are two that I believe will make all the difference: Love, of course, and kindness.

    Thank you, Eli, for the beauty and truth you share here.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m honored to have interrupted your vacation, Corey. Kindness gets ignored like ginger snaps in the cookie world, but man, are they good when you get them.

      Love, kindness, and snickerdoodle cookies would *definitely* make the most change in the world – don’t you think?

      Thank you, Corey, for the beauty and truth you *bring* here.

  12. We need more material like this in this world.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      … and sweet readers like you to see it! Thanks for coming by. Looking forward to reading your blog!

  13. Kathy G says:

    So much good stuff here! It isn’t easy to do all of these, but my world runs so much smoother when I do.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Kathy! Kindness is like a fresh-shaved leg. Or, something!

  14. 15andmeowing says:

    That is too bad that another volunteer was so rude. I like all your advice though better to ignore it and stay calm.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Well, maybe that volunteer had a rough day – but still, kindness is the best way. We all got home in good time!

  15. claywatkins says:

    Eli, good morning and glad I read, even at a day late. It’s is better to be kind, though it’s not easier. I had a principal years ago who reminded me that it’s better to be on the high road, there are fewer people there. I have a pretty blessed life and I need to be more thankful for what I have and where I am. Thanks for the reminder. Have a great day!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad to have you here always, Clay. If kindness was easy, we’d all be holding hands by now. Traffic on the low road is definitely always in a snarl.

      Gratitude is also not an easy endeavor, friend. But I think that it’s so is a reason it feels good when we get to it.

  16. Reading the Bible it stands out to me that Jesus took a lot of naps. Turning the other cheek takes A LOT of energy. I hope current events move us to seek kindness. It’s really the only way forward.

    I finally cut the cord on my news habit. Should have listened to you a while ago on that one!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Jesus was just alright, wasn’t he Joey? The dude walked everywhere in sandals. I hope all events – good and bad, past and current and future – lead to kindness.

      You’ll find a whole new level of peace when you turn off the TV and radio dial at least for a while!

  17. cricketmuse says:

    Taking in that stray shopping cart, parking at the end so that someone who REALLY needs that cherry next to the store spot can have it–yeah, hoping these erase my proclivity to mumble at the roodies on the road (the ones who pull out right in front of the car when there is absolutely no one else coming). Right–breathe, forget, eat a Snickers. Working on it…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Your good far outweighs the highway mumbling, Cricket. The Snickers bar ought to clinch it – or KitKat, either/or. All any of us can do is work on it!

      1. cricketmuse says:

        Just a little bit of kindness does so very much–even without the benefit of chocolate. It was a lovely post👍🏻

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Kindness *and* chocolate, though? Dang. Glad you liked this, Crick, and thank you.

  18. I am spreading kindness by not writing the long, well-rehearsed (and reasonably justifiable) resignation letter. How am I doing?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That takes some doing, Jenn! I think you’re doing a stellar job.

      1. Thank you. I found catharsis in writing last night. The situation’s not better, but I am…for now! LOL

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        That’s exactly it, Jenn! YOU are.

  19. stomperdad says:

    As the Dalia​ Lama said, “Whenever possible, choose kindness. It’s always possible.” The world seems a crooked place. Thanks for this dose of positivity.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It is always possible, Eric, even when it feels impossible. I love the quote Fred Rogers had about his mom, that when something bad happens, look around. You’ll always see someone helping.

      1. stomperdad says:

        Yeah, that’s a good one, too. When there is a crisis there will be people running away and there will be people running toward. They are the heroes. If only the world were more like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood…

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Dude, his apartment was bitchin’, wasn’t it?

  20. ❤️ It ain’t always easy. But so worth it. I too hate it when a day has been so great, and all it takes is one thing to foul my mood. Distraction is my tactic to get back on track.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It’s often not easy, Susan. Definitely, always worth it though. We just can’t let one thing ruin a good day.

      Distraction works wonders for tons, from getting a shot to forgetting an ill!

  21. Lindsay says:

    Love this Eli. I believe we could all use more kindness. If the world had more kindness, love and compassion, it would ripple outward and be something pretty incredible.
    Pause resonates with me HUGE.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Linds. The best way to ensure kindness is to give it. If we all could just cherish each other, imagine.

      A pause is enough time to suffocate a thousand ills.

  22. Haha…this part cracked me up, Eli! Even Gandhi probably had to step back and say, “dang, y’all. I’m done for the day.”

    I totally agree that Gandhi thought this. Pausing is SO important! I have definitely been working on that. I don’t yell when I get mad—I cry. Pausing, breathing, even taking a walk to regroup is always better for me in those situations. Otherwise, I’m the “woman who cries all the time.”

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Can’t you just see Mahatma taking off his glasses and shaking his head, Britt?

      He knew the value of the pause. So much happens (or doesn’t) in the pause. Just a breath, sometimes, but others, just a 10-mile walk is enough.

      “Woman who cries all the time” would be a stellar working book title, dontchathink?

  23. San says:

    I am always so baffled how unkind (and inconsiderate) lots of people (not just men!) go through life… it’s really not that hard to be kind.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks for stopping by, San. I know – it feels like it’s more effort to be unkind, and yet, we seem to find a way …

  24. larva225 says:

    I’m periodically the office kindness fairy, dropping off random gifts – chocolates or flowers – anonymously on people’s desks. I dig it.
    But I gotta say, not using the middle finger is hard. Maybe my kindness fairy actions cancels out the birds?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I wish you worked in my office! I have an idea for a charity that does stuff like this … maybe I’ll write about it someday.

      I tend to use the middle finger as a happy sign of friendship, which makes it easier to keep it out of those angry moments.

      Kindness for sure, in the right amounts, can counteract those birds that fly in the moment!

  25. Laura says:

    A great post! I’m working on the nemesis thing…not so much the strangers on the road as the people who I actually know that are somewhat dipsh*tty. (Maybe “nemesis” is harsh.) My horn is rarely used, too — only in cases when collision is imminent. I was so shocked at yesterday’s parking lot incident that there was a 2 second delay before I laid on that horn. My kids (and I) were shocked I wasn’t calling the insurance company…
    Have a great day!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Laura. The dipsh*ts near us are the toughest to share kindness to! Nemesis and dipsh*t feel harsh, but also wholly appropriate.

      My horn is embarrassingly weak, so even with a collision about to happen, it won’t do much! Sometimes, we get out by the skin of our bumpers, don’t we?

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