Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Essence of Kindness
Today I had the chance to do one of those small gestures that I think are the essence of kindness. Let me explain what happened and why it was important.
I was driving up a busy road past the post office in Moorestown on my way to mail a letter. About a block past the post office there are 3 mailboxes that you can pull up alongside to drop off your mail. As I put my envelope in the mailbox I noticed a man parked on the other side of the street waiting for a break in traffic so that he could get out of his car, cross the street, and send off his mail. Seeing this, I went to his car and offered to take care of it for him. Having done this, as we both waited to get back into the traffic flow, he gave me a nod and a wave of thanks.
The reason this small act was important is that it was a reflection of something I likely wouldn’t have done in the past but which has now become second nature. I’ve noticed that there are things that are so right in front of us that almost any of us would help out. For example, if someone were carrying a stack of books and you saw the person drop them, most of us would quickly offer to help. I've noticed that almost all people are quick to hold the door open for others. But what about the opportunities that aren't right in front of our nose? The ones that require us to go out of our way a bit, or sometimes even to stretch out of our comfort zone. Most people would not go across the street to offer help when it's not solicited. And yet, I'm coming to believe that that's the essence of simple kindness. It's about all the little things we do to be nice to each other and to help each other out.
It also seems to me that when we're nice to each other, the world just seems to feel like it works more smoothly. Almost like a lubricant in our interpersonal dynamics. And like most things, it seems that the more we practice kindness, the more it becomes habitual. And that's a good thing.