Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Two Stories and Two Lessons
Today I want to share two stories of very simple acts of kindness. Though they were simple in scope and effort, they each had lessons for me to contemplate. Here's what happened:
The first story was another Wegman's grocery cart one. As I was coming out of Wegman's today I noticed an elderly woman very slowly loading groceries into her car. It was clearly difficult for her and so I went over to see how I could help. By the time I got there, she was done but I asked if I could return the grocery cart back to the store for her. She smiled and told me she'd appreciate that.
As I got back to my car and thought about what had taken place, I noticed that my attitude toward older people has really shifted (of course, some of this may be because I'm getting closer to that age!). I'm embarrassed to admit that I've often gotten frustrated when dealing with many seniors. I've usually been in a hurry and gotten annoyed that they take so darn long to do anything or to move out of the way. I haven't always had the patience (or the sensitivity) to appreciate the challenges they face.
Since I'm now so much more focused on looking for opportunities for acts of kindness, seniors have become like manna from heaven. They so often need and appreciate some help. Of course, I've also tried to be particularly sensitive to offering help in a way that preserves dignity. It can be demoralizing to need the assistance of others for simple daily tasks. Offering help in a quiet, gentle way can make it easier for someone to accept that help without sacrificing their pride.
The second story I want to share happened after I attended another high school basketball game today. Since it was a sectional championship game, there was a packed house. Predictably, the parking lot was jammed after the game as people tried to make their way home. Exiting the lot meant lots of rows of cars trying to merge into just one or two lanes. I watched as some people aggressively pushed their way in front of others or refused to yield space for cars trying to work their way into the exit lane. Whenever I saw this, I decided to go out of my way to give other people an opportunity to get in front of me. This was always greeted with an appreciative wave.
As I reflected on this experience, I noticed how automatic or reflexive it's become for many people to "fight" their way through crowds or traffic. I've certainly been guilty of this many times. By staying aggressive and refusing to yield a spot, we may get out of the lot two minutes earlier. Is that really worth the stress, anxiety, and tension that typically accompanies an aggressive attitude? I think not. As I've started to focus more on kindness, I'm better able to recognize the silliness of my previous attitude. Being kind is so much more relaxing and enjoyable. Of course, it's nothing more than a simple shift in perspective - and it's available to all of us.