As I drove up to the exit boom gate at my local shops this morning, I noticed the lady in the car next to me racing to get her ticket into the machine before mine. I wasn’t aware it was a race! And then, as I approached the roundabout on the way home, I saw the same thing happen with a guy racing towards the roundabout in an attempt to beat me to it. Again, when did life become a race that one must win?
I’ve grown up since my late teens and early 20’s when I was too naive to consider those around me. I always knew that two wrongs don’t make a right but if someone was mean or rude to me, I certainly didn’t have to be pleasant back. Maybe I’ve mellowed since motherhood, or maybe it is a general disillusionment with how society is moving towards an every man for himself world view. But either way, I more often that not take the approach of “kill them with kindness”.
Think of the worst day you have had. The one where everything went wrong. You were up all night. You woke up cranky and had a fight with your partner and then in your clumsy, sleep deprived state you dropped your favourite tea cup. And that is all before you have even had a chance to shower and get ready for the day. All you want to do is go straight back to bed, pull the doona over your head and wake up tomorrow.
We all have those days. We are only human after all. But what’s to say that the person racing you to the exit at the shopping centre isn’t having one of those days? Or that the girl at the supermarket checkout, who can’t seem to crack a smile, didn’t receive some terrible news before she started her shift. Or the mum at school who just seems to want to cause trouble may be doing so because she is having her own troubles at home and needs an out.
That’s not to say that bad behaviour is excusable, because it’s not. But what I am saying is that you don’t know why someone is behaving the way they are. Light feeds light and hate feeds hate. If you respond to someone’s grunt of disdain in an equally downtrodden manner then you are feeding their bad day. You are just another customer who didn’t smile at them or said something rude.
But what if you turned that around? What if you smiled and asked that person how they are? Or showed them a gesture of kindness, no matter how simple. Then you are letting in some light.
Some people like to be stuck in a dark room, wallowing in their sorrows. No matter how much light you shine on them, they will not open the door to let it in. Others just need to be shown the light to find their way out.
There is a particular Oprah video I love to watch which talks about the power of gratitude. Oprah says, “focussing on the one thing that you are grateful for increases the energy of gratitude and rises, just a little bit, the joy inside yourself.” She goes on to say, “a good feeling increases more good feeling.”
What if you are the only good feeling in someone else’s otherwise miserable day? How will that make them feel? Perhaps it will give them something to be grateful for and open them up to even more good feelings.
More and more I see consideration of others in our community slipping away. I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where compassion and consideration are heading for extinction. I want to show them what it means to be a good person and a good community citizen. What it means to care about other people, even if I don’t know them.
To me this is what it means to kill them with kindness:
It is giving way, even when I don’t have to
It is asking a stranger if they are ok when they appear upset
It is smiling at someone, even if that smile won’t be returned
It is stopping to help, even though it means walking out of my way
It is saying hello or having a chat in the queue
It is shining the brightest light I possibly can and hoping that someone looks up to find it
At the end of the day, we are all in this world together. The kind of life we have is up to us. As Oprah talks about in her video, we can go back to being grateful for our breath and for our arms and legs. Or we can focus on what we don’t have. I choose to focus on my breath and all the things I do have to spread the joy that gratitude brings, as far as I can.
How do you show kindness in your life? How does it make you feel when someone is kind to you for no reason?
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