IMG_0014Confession.  I think random acts of kindness can be a bit of a problem.

I’m on a quest for a kinder world; you would think I like random acts of kindness.

Well … I sorta do. Videos like this warm my heart:

However, I don’t think random acts will change us much.  I hope people won’t stop from doing nice things for others, but random kindness alone is not hitting the issue.

When I think of being random, I think of spur of the moment, unplanned, and inconsistent.  This leads me to ask, “So is kindness just something random and out of the norm that do, and then we run back to being our closed-off, inward-focused selfs?

Shouldn’t kindness be the norm rather than the random exception?

The further I get into this year-long quest for a kinder world, one thing is apparent to me … it’s a lot easier to be kind to strangers who have needs, than it is to those I  know well (or think I know well) or those who should be doing their job.

Strangers haven’t hurt me, disillusioned me, or let me down (yet), so I don’t have anything to lose.  But what about people who ARE in a position to not do what I need or want them to do?  Do I treat them kindly?

I had to put these thoughts to test yesterday … of all places … at the post office.

It was 12:47 PM at one of the few post offices that is open on a Saturday in Tacoma.  All of us waiting thought that it closed at 1:00 (it now stays open until 3:00), but the longer hours weren’t helping anything.  Everyone had hopes of dashing in and out, but … NO. Such wasn’t going to happen.

Two overloaded workers … a bit rude in their manners … no manager on duty … oodles of customers … and a line that curved in front of the counter so everyone could hear the interactions at the register.  Pretty soon, there was muttering in the crowd, especially every time a customer asked a question that meant that the worker had to go into the back for a package, or had to look up extensive information.

The woman behind me was especially agitated with her whispered, “Oh jeez.  Spare me!  You’ve got to be kidding,” every tine a customer  asked for help.  The requests of every customer was on a microscope, and this woman had the line groaning along with her as if we were spectators at a game,  pitted against both teams.

I tried smiling, tried starting a conversation with the agitator, but to no avail.  Pretty soon, I found myself equally tense.

Then, one of the two workers slipped the “This window is closed” sign in front of her station and darted out for her lunch break.

I groaned too. A mob frenzy teetered dangerously in the air. About that time, I heard it … a little voice in my head: “This is a good time to be kind.”

“But I didn’t say anything.”  Did I just argue like a middle schooler to a voice in my head?

“Body language is as unkind as words.” This voice was starting to sound like a teacher.

Ughhh! This was the post office.  This is a government run institution which my taxes help to support and which is supposed to meet the needs of its people.  It was obviously being poorly run, and yet the government keeps asking to be in control of more institutions that affect my life.

A whole liturgy of complaints was welling up in me. Shouldn’t I be mad?

“No, be kind.”  The pesky voice was persistent.

“But the customer is always right,” I tried arguing back.

“Yes … but be kind,” the voice urged.

So I did.  I smiled. I stayed quiet, and I tried to focus on what those workers were feeling rather than making it all about me.

So twenty-five minutes of my life were spent standing in a long line.

I thought later of the results should I have walked away mad … I would have grumbled all day long, telling others how bad the Post Office is, how we don’t need more government-run programs, etc. A whole lot more than 25 minutes would have been eaten up … wasted, really.

Instead, I walked away peaceful.

I’m still working on it, but I think kindness is best when applied not just randomly, but often and regularly, even in undeserving situations.