On my birthday I went to the grocery store with my husband. We were having a good time, picking up special snacks for the evening of Netflix ahead of us and cracking jokes. Everything was going smoothly until we approached the checkout lane. Apparently, ahead of us, someone had started checking out and then left the lane to grab one last item. Another shopper maneuvered her cart into the lane just as the other woman returned.
“Oh,” she said, “sorry, I was already checking out, my stuff is on the belt.”
No big deal, right? Well, not according to the shopper. She began grumbling something under her breath as she pulled her cart out. Awkward enough, until the other woman suddenly barked:
“Excuse me, ma’am? EXCUSE ME, MA’AM?”
“I can check out WHEREVER I WANT TO,” the shopper spat, then promptly left for another lane. Meanwhile, my husband and I stood there, incredibly uncomfortable.
The whole exchange upset me on a deeper level. It wasn’t just that it was petty and weird, more that it could’ve all been avoided with an ounce of kindness from either of the parties involved. A little bit of understanding. What’s the point of putting out more ugliness into a world already full of ugliness?
I have a challenge for you: the next time you venture into the world, try to put forth only kindness.
I’ll give you an example: I take a lot of Ubers. That means I come into contact with a lot of Uber drivers (obviously.) Sometimes they want to talk, sometimes they don’t. In any case, I try to be open and friendly. I try to make a connection. I feel that in this life, we don’t make enough connections, so I try to change that. The last Uber ride I took showed me how important this can be.
On a round-trip adventure to grab some food for the evening, I was picked up by a very nice, soft-spoken Middle Eastern man named Muhammed. I put out feelers, trying to see if he was interested in talking, but he seemed sort of shy. At some point I mentioned that Uber drivers are always very nice and it makes the traveling experience much more pleasant. He responded, “They are probably nice because you are nice.”
Sure, a good fluff to my ego, but it opened him up more too so we continued talking. I can’t remember what all we covered — I know we discussed his move to St. Louis, his brother, the phenomenon of Pokemon Go — and when I got to the restaurant he insisted on waiting for me so he could take me home. I warned him it could be up to 30 minutes but he promised to stay.
We talked the whole way back and his enthusiasm only grew. By the time he dropped me off I felt like this was the first good conversation he’d had in a while — at least, I hoped I’d added something good to his day.
I started to get out of the car and he told me, “Thank you for talking to me. I’ve been in St. Louis for six months and you are the first nice passenger I’ve ever had.”
That was a wonderful compliment but to me, it spoke more to the fact that he’s been driving people around town for six months and I may have been the first person who actually took the time to speak to him as a person. And do you know how much effort it took on my part? Almost none. I just talked to him. A ride that might have been 15 minutes of silence turned into something that not only improved his day but mine as well.
This whole thing probably stinks of #humblebrag but it’s not what I’m going for. In all honesty, I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to accomplish here. I just know that kindness is something that can be very easy to take for granted or, even worse, neglect. Over the past year I’ve learned to trust my instincts and my gut tells me this is a message some people could stand to hear right now.
So just keep this in mind: there is so much you can do, so easily, to project kindness into the world. Give it a shot. You won’t regret it.