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
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.
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?
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