Simple Human Kindness by Cylvia Hayes

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Sometimes it is the absence of a thing that reveals its true value.  Until recently I had not adequately appreciated simple human kindness.

In the aftermath of my life taking a drastic, unexpected and very public turn, I was embarrassed and nervous about how people would react to me.

My first trip back to the gym I was uneasy.  I was acutely aware of the eyes on me.  In the weight room one man, whose name I didn’t know but had seen many times – a gym ‘regular” – put down the barbell he was hefting and approached.  I steeled myself.  He said, “I just want you to know I think you’re a good person and I’m sorry for all the crap that’s going on.”  I let out my breath and blinked away tears.  Thank you.

I was nervous entering my favorite coffee shop that I hadn’t visited for months.  As usual it was busy.  When the tall, blond woman who had worked there as long as I could remember saw me she set aside her work and asked with genuine concern how I was faring.  In the mist of all the bustle and the demands of her job she listened deeply, fully present.  She did so every time I stopped by for several months.  Thank you.

Feeling the need for spiritual community, shyly, I returned after many years like a prodigal daughter to the little Unity church.  Many people were startled to see me.  I was somewhat startled to be there.  They were all unfailingly kind and welcoming.  Their warmth and fellowship melted over me like a soothing balm bringing comfort to a wound.  Thank you!

Standing in the pharmacy aisle in Safeway looking for migraine medicine I was holding the back of my head muttering subconsciously, “ouchie ouchie ouchie ouchie ouchie.”  I must have been louder than I realized because a man stopped and asked if I was OK.  I said yeah and explained that I was just having a migraine for the first time in years.  He asked if I felt like I was going to pass out.  I didn’t.   We went our separate ways but several times I noticed him nearby.  We “wound up” in the same check out line.  He helped me unload my groceries into my car and took the basket back for me.  Thank you.

I had so many of these warm moments with strangers and they stirred something in me.  It took several months to realize that what I was responding to was simple, spontaneous human kindness.  Not just the kindness one expects from true friends and loved ones, but unexpected, unforeseen kindnesses.

One day I stopped by the coffee shop again.  The same lovely woman smiled warmly and asked how I was doing.  I gave her an update and she listened.  As she handed me my egg and veggie sandwich and cup of coffee I said, “You know one thing I’ve learned is that until very recently I had under-valued simple human kindness.  I really appreciate you and your kindness.”  Tears welled up in her warm, blue eyes and she said, “Thank you for that.”

As I have grown to appreciate kindness more I’ve also seen how, in the past, with all my busyness and sense of importance, always on a deadline or on the move, I often unnecessarily withheld kindness from others.  I wasn’t intentionally mean or anything, just often pretty self-absorbed.  But now that I have personally experienced the comfort and healing that simple kindness brings to a wounded person I will offer it more freely myself. 

 Cylvia Hayes

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