The blended aroma of fresh coffee and out-of-the-oven croissants greeted me as I entered my friend’s country kitchen. Jane grabbed her grandmother’s rose patterned fruit bowl off the counter. I picked up the coffee pot and together we headed toward the sunny breakfast nook with its bistro table set for two.
“I must tell you what happened last week,” Jane said passing me the croissants. “I was at the dollar store looking at gift wraps when this wheelchair bound grandmother and her granddaughter showed up at the end of the aisle. For some reason the granddaughter had to leave. Her grandmother stayed there to shop on her own.
“She looked a little bewildered and before I could do anything, the lady standing next to her leaned down and started talking to her. Kate, it was so heartwarming to watch this stranger help the older woman reach for different gift bags and boxes. They were laughing and having such a great time. When the granddaughter returned, the lady simply said goodbye and went off to finish her own shopping.”
“I love it!”
“Me too but then it got me thinking about kindness.”
“In what way?” I asked while pouring the coffee.
“All of it. I believe kindness is the glue that allows us to live in a community – caring, sharing, helping and supporting each other. Divisiveness and aggression just tear us apart and collectively and individually we become weaker, not stronger. We need each other to survive.”
I couldn’t agree more. For me, kindness manifests when we are friendly, generous and considerate toward ourselves and others. It emerges as feelings of warmth, goodness, understanding, forgiveness and compassion and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of another.
It bubbles up spontaneously when we smile and open a door for someone or when we choose to bake a batch of fresh muffins for our colleagues at work.
Jane told me that a friend of hers felt that an act of kindness always involved some sort of sacrifice on his part – be it of comfort, time or resources. And because of the fast-paced world he lived in, being thoughtful and considerate often took a back seat, particularly when he was tired, frustrated, and constantly running on overdrive to keep up with his never-ending deadlines. It bothered him when his acts of kindness were not appreciated or were taken for granted.
Yet true kindness is something we give without any judgement or strings attached. It’s a reflection of our character; how others respond is a reflection of theirs. For me it’s worth it to take the time and effort to be kind because, like a boomerang, the universe will find a way to send it back when I least expect it or need it the most.
And it’s about recognizing the generosity people extend us. For example, only this past week, a friend of mine gave me the benefit of the doubt when I cancelled our luncheon at the last minute.
Or, how about the boss who gives their irate subordinate the gift of time to compose themselves followed by the courtesy of withholding evaluation until all the facts are revealed.
Kindness is expressed in our words as well as our deeds. It’s expressing our opinion or preference without negating the other person’s beliefs or dishonoring them in any way. It’s knowing when to keep silent and remembering to say no to the request, not the person.
Kindness is as much about how we do things as it is about what we do. It’s something that flows from our hearts.