Today I settled. For months (years, actually), I have determined to photograph some of nature’s shyest and most intriguing creatures by rising before dawn and trekking (automobile style) to a wildlife preserve only 30 minutes from where my mom lives. Doesn’t seem like a hard … Continue reading I Settled
Memorial Day Weekend. Today I remember six people who have run ahead in a journey. I miss them on this earth, yet they are forever in my resolve, in my actions, and in my gratitude. One of them, I never met.
The craziest thing happened last night. The Northwest is known for its spectacular glimpses of bald eagles … just not deep in the city limits of Tacoma … in my tiny back yard.
We had started that month with four cats. Two mysteriously disappeared, likely eaten by coyotes, but I comforted the girls that at least we had our original pair – Winnie and Pooh.
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.
I would end up in a puddle of sweat and grow bald, if I tried to post every day … still, I am going to be more frequent in my postings as I search for a daily dose of kindness in keeping with my new year’s focus. I wonder what some of you are seeing out there in your sphere of influence. Is kindness making any waves?
Yesterday’s dose of kindness came in two forms. First, this article:
The headline alone, had me in tears. Kindness … a mere, simple act that freezes evil … throws it on its back. That young man will never forget those hundreds of officers who came out to support him. May that memory soften the pain and angst he will face in days and years ahead at the loss of his father. May more kindness find its way to his family on every day that seems impossible because of the tragedy staring them in the face.
The second dose of kindness came at the coffee shop. I’m not a coffee drinker but love the coffee shop … have spent hours there over the last several years, working and occasionally making new friends.
Lately, it’s seemed that people are more reserved at the coffee shop than they used to be. It doesn’t help that we all have earbuds shoved in, (me included). We’ve created mobile, little bubbles that put us in the midst of people, yet away from them at the same time. Kind of like hamsters in a ball, I suppose.
I’m an offender myself. Sometimes, I want to be surrounded by people, but not really interact because I have so much school work to do. Yesterday, was one of those kinds of days. Earplugs in, people surrounded me, but stayed out of my space.
Then one kid (probably mid twenties, but still a kid to me), made it obvious that he wanted my attention.. Staring in my direction, ear buds out …he sought eye contact.
(Looking back, I have this nagging feeling that I might have accidentally drank his water that was near my hand … maybe that’s why he started staring at me in the first place. Oops, if I did.)
Turns out he needed me to watch his stuff while he went to the bathroom. When he came back however, I was caught off guard. Obvious that I was a teacher and he a student, he struck up a conversation. Later, his friend came in, and I was invited into their conversation as well. The friend is a nurse in the ICU unit where Mike received care last spring. I didn’t remember the man, but it was cool to talk to someone who understood where we had been. As these two left, the first guy stuck out his hand and said, “It was good talking to you. Hope I see you in here again.”
A young woman (also a student) soon took their seat and also struck up a conversation with me. Moments later, a couple of men asked about available seats next to me. Turns out, that I knew one of them … a pastor who had served at a school I knew.
As I prepared to leave the coffee shop, a second young woman stopped me.
“You sure know a lot of people,” she said.
“Well … now I do.” I had to laugh.
The woman is new in town … had come to the coffee shop to do a Bible study. Warmed by the kindness of the first young man who had struck me up a conversation, the ripple effect yet moved me to another person and an endearing conversation.
Intriguing … life, that is … is intriguing when lived with the earplugs out and when sparked by kindness.
A quest for kindness is all sweet and swell for about three days.
There are better souls than me who would likely last longer, but it took me about 72 hours, and now I don’t feel like being kind anymore.
This world stinks. We make stupid laws. We argue and fight. We oppress. We ignore. We bully. We cave. We cower. We lie. We leave the vulnerable defenseless.
It’s a mess and sometimes I just want to shout or kick something or even slap someone (several someones, at the moment).
Kindness fails for sure.
Then I think of Mrs. Gardner.
She was a strange creature. I really don’t know much about her history, but will never forget when she showed up in our town, occupying a house that had been abandoned for years.
She was in her 70’s, she was poor, she walked everywhere, and when she had a problem? Well … she would sing.
Yep … that’s how she took on the world … with a song.
Countless times, I saw Mrs. Gardner walking through town or even miles down the highways out of town, her hands clasped behind her back, a smile on her face, and a hymn or happy tune coming out of her mouth.
“There’s Mrs. Gardner,” we’d yell from the school bus.
“Wonder where she’s walking today?” some would ask.
“I wonder what she’s singing today,” was always my unspoken thought.
People liked her. She worked hard. She cared for others, but about all else she did was sing.
I’m mad today. I want to be mean to people, not be kind to them … yet, I really do want to sow seeds of kindness into this cold and divisive culture.
So I close my computer and today, I SING.