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.
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