You can talk a great philosophy
But if you can't be kind to people every day
It doesn't mean that much to me
It's the little things you do
The little things you say
It's the love you give along the way.
-Ani DiFranco, Looking for the Holes
This week started off badly.
I've been extremely stressed about our finances. On Sunday I was checking our banking online and noticed that I'd bounced not one, but two cheques. This NEVER happens to us. And really it shouldn't have happened this time either. I had been moving money around and somehow the cheques got processed in the short time between money being transferred into the correct account. I called the bank and they agreed to reverse one of the NSF charges, but we still got stuck paying for the other one plus having to rewrite the cheques and pay their NSF charges. Grr.
Then on Monday I decided to keep the car for the day. I offered to drive Jen into work so that she wouldn't be concerned about getting there on time and so I could get an extra 20 minutes of time with her. Anyway, on the way back home after dropping her off at the office I smashed the side view mirror off of the car. Again, it shouldn't have happened. I was on a side street driving (well) below the speed limit, but there were trucks from a construction site parked along the right side of the road and a woman pulled out of her driveway on the oncoming lane as I was driving by, so I tried to pull over so she could get by (not that she was giving me much of a choice) and sideswiped one of the trucks. I was SO mad. I got out to check what had happened. Fortunately the only damage was to our car. Not worth reporting to insurance, but still going to cost a few hundred bucks to fix. Then, as I was talking to the owner of the truck a woman in a car behind mine started blasting her horn and rolled down her window to yell at me to get out of the way. I told her she was going to have to wait a minute. Her mature response, "No! YOU have to wait." I took my sweet time walking back around to the driver's side and driving home. Not my finest moment, but really, as if she couldn't see I was already having a shitty day.
And that got me thinking. Had she shown some semblance of compassion in that moment I probably would have left feeling at least a little less shitty. It may have made her commute a few minutes longer (if that), but she probably would have felt better too. We chose how we are going to react to a situation, and this choice can pretty significantly effect our emotional state and potentially the emotional state of others.
There's been a "kindness initiative" going around on Facebook. I signed up on my friend's wall. The gist of it is that you sign up and your friend promises to do something kind for you at some point during the year if you promise to extend the offer on to five more people. I think it's a really nice idea. I've even already done something kind for one of the people who responded to me.
But here's the thing of it, it's easy to be kind to friends. I want my friends to be happy. I'm happy when I can do something that brightens their day. I don't have the same investment in some random stranger's happiness. But that's not to say that they couldn't use something to brighten their day too. An act as small as that woman asking if I was okay rather than yelling at me to get out of the way would have made a big difference to how I felt earlier this week.
Later in the week I was corresponding with someone (also on Facebook) about a toy they were looking to buy used. I didn't end up having what she wanted, but after we'd established that, she wrote one final message saying thanks again, and "Off topic but your cover pic is beautiful! Lovely fam." My cover photo is one of me and Jen with the two kids. It's not the best photo, but I love it because it's the four of us together. I never really thought about people other than my friends seeing it when I changed it, but her noticing it and then commenting on it meant so much to me. More than she would have ever thought, I'm sure.
So I have a new kindness initiative for myself: Try to do something kind for people that I don't know. Even if it's just something small, like commenting on how well behaved their child is in the check out line at the grocery store or holding a door open for someone.
I think the world could use more kindness. Don't you?