I remember as a child being taught that it was very important to be kind.
As I neared school-age, the importance of kindness was impressed ever and ever more urgently upon me. Being a youngster, I don’t think I really understood what kindness was, but I knew it was sort of like being nice (pleasant, agreeable). So – especially when adults were around – I made a point to try to be ‘nice.’ Perhaps not as fake as Eddie Haskel in the old Leave It To Beaver TV series, but still, if I may have lacked in a naturally benevolent nature, kindness was a veneer that I very much knew I was expected to show.
That strategy, formed and practiced in primary school, seemed to work well at keeping me in good graces of teachers and parents. And thus I went on in life with hardly another thought about kindness – it was something I had mastered, after all – until now.
Unbidden, I noticed a lot of little kindnesses this week.
Mundane, commonplace courtesies, but somehow they struck me deeply. A driver stops for a pedestrians to walk, when five before have driven by. A man opens and holds the door for me with a nod. My friend calls from the store to see if there is anything I need before she comes over. With each of these, I smiled and said a heartfelt “thank you” – but when I realize how deeply they’ve touched me, I wonder if thank you is enough.
As I move into my 5th decade of life, it seems I am suddenly much more aware of how precious these little kindnesses are – both in the giving and receiving.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato
Perhaps it is because I have experienced first-hand the comfort of having a stranger offer “let me help you with that” when I am having a particularly hard day. And I’ve also experienced the cold-slap to the soul when someone shows indifference or contempt, when they could have just as easily shown courtesy. Or even perhaps, it’s because somehow along the way, that adolescent veneer of ‘niceness’ has ripened into a genuine kindness of heart that I now see in others, as I carry it in myself. Whatever the reason, the difference is – I no longer take these courtesies for granted.
I’ve always believed the world to be a big, wonderful, beautiful and amazing place. But it can also be harsh, demanding, scary, cold, intimidating and unforgiving.
Each of these kind moments is a precious gift, and our lives are richer, our challenges more tolerable because of them.
The best portion of a good man’s life – his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. ~ William Wordsworth
So, for every little kindness and courtesy you have shown this week, to whomever it was – I acknowledge you and thank you.
Thank you for stopping at cross walks.
Thank you for waiting for pedestrians to walk before turning right.
Thank you for holding the elevator.
Thank you for meeting my eyes and giving me a smile -however fleeting – when I’m walking my sweet, adorable dog. Thank you for acknowledging when I hold the door for you.
Thanks for waiting patiently as I back out of my parking spot, and thank you for letting me merge on to the interstate.
Thank you for returning my phone calls.
Thank you for replying to my emails when I’ve asked you a question.
I thank you all for these little things and more.
Although I am sure my mom started teaching me at 5 or younger, at 50 it seems I’m finally learning, it really is the little things that count.