Ah, the unbelievably belated sequel to Love is Kind, Part 1: Discipline.
While “love is kind” perfectly applies to disciplining your children, it clearly also applies in a more universal manner. Everyone has heard the phrase “simple acts of kindness,” but when these acts are born of love, it can mean a lot more in someone’s life than the convenience of having a door held open for them when their hands are full.
Have you ever been having a particularly rough day, and then on top of that have a rough exchange with a friend or stranger, and you think to yourself (or say out loud, depending on what type of person you are), “Wow, you have no idea what I’m dealing with today, and you probably wouldn’t say/do that if you did.”
Guess what? We have no idea what 99% of the people we know are dealing with today. Other drivers on the road, colleagues, people in line in front of or behind us, the customer service rep on the other end of the line, our teachers or boss, even our close friends, children and other family – there’s a really good chance they have something on their minds, big or small, to which you and I are not privy. Whatever happened to just cutting people a little slack? What would it cost us to go an extra step and extend a little kindness?
We like to think our words and actions are confined to our little island and don’t affect the people around us. The truth is, what you say, how you say it, and how you act and react all have significant power, whether it be to alter someone’s attitude, or day, or even direction in life. We don’t like to have to accept that much responsibility, but that’s the way it is, for better and for worse.
Example? I have a little nephew. He has bright blue eyes and a mop of wavy blond hair and he refuses to touch his food at the dinner table until everyone is seated and has said the blessing. He’s beyond sweet.
Recently, a mob of drunken college hoodlums (wrapping up their celebration of a football win) swarmed through his neighborhood committing random acts of littering, vandalism, and other petty crime, including the theft of a small trampoline from a backyard. You know, the kind of trampoline some people keep around for exercise, and some moms keep around for their preschoolers to safely vent energy, and some niblings keep around as their most prized possession on all the earth. These drunken hoodlums, I am assuming, carried out their midnight madness with hoots and hollers and high-fives, and the mistaken idea that it was all in good fun.
I am positive that none of them considered the trembling lip and alligator tears streaming down the face of a crushed toddler who woke up the next morning to find his favorite toy, his favorite way to pass the time, and one of his first ever possessions of his very own, had simply disappeared while he slept. Sure, his parents could have a new one in the mail in a matter of minutes or pop out to the store that day, but you still have to help the kid work through the initial trauma of realizing that some people are mean and inconsiderate, and the “trampoline-fixing fairy” probably isn’t going to suffice.
I guess there’s a pretty good chance none of us got drunk and stole from a baby today, but the reality is that much more “minor” offenses — a harsh word, brushing off someone’s opinion or concern, neglecting an owed apology — can have a similar effect.
Do we need to carry a reference chart in our back pockets to help us remember what is “kind” and what isn’t? (Is there an app for that?) No, the problem isn’t that we neglected to learn the Golden Rule as a youngster, it’s that we neglect to apply it. We forget to consider the unknown factors, and we “forget” that everything everywhere isn’t always about proving our point or getting what we want in that moment.
The idea that everything isn’t always about me runs so counter to the prevalent atmosphere of entitlement that maybe we do need some actual practice at being kind. Luckily, the process itself is quite intuitive, and the only thing that’s really required, is to start.
Or if you’re not ready for that, at least smile sincerely at someone today, and watch them leave happier.