The storm disrupted everyone’s travel plans, leaving us feeling stranded while we waited for air traffic controllers to clear take-off. The collective frustration became palpable and unnerving when hoards of travelers bombarded the gate to protest because they anticipated missing their connections. As I sat in the peanut gallery with my travel companion observing the melee, an overwhelmed stewardess and I met eyes for a second as someone screamed at her. I gave her a compassionate glance, rolled my eyes on her behalf, then smiled and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” She smiled back. A few hours later as we boarded the plane, she took my ticket and I said, “thank you so much for your hard work, I’m sorry everyone was such a pain in the a**, that looked awful.” She laughed.
After boarding, she came and sat across from me in the exit row where she thanked me for being patient and making her laugh. “You don’t know what it means to me for someone to just be polite meanwhile everyone else is trying to bite my head off.” She brought us extra peanuts later.
I tell this story because it reminds me that kindness demands massive consideration and major self control. I was definitely peeved when my travel plans took an unexpected turn, but before looking for someone to blame, I took a step back to think about it first then felt compassion flood my body as I observed what the flight attendants had to deal with. Surrendering to the idea that this whole situation was out of my control, I embraced an opportunity to just be kind. I’d rather arrive late with my dignity intact knowing I didn’t act like an a-hole.Sure, maybe making a fuss would have gotten me something, but would I have felt good about that? No.
The Inconvenience of Being Kind
Kindness is inconvenient. Kindness demands noticing your jerk reaction then choosing to do the opposite. Kindness demands selflessness. Kindness means stopping yourself when you’re racing to get somewhere in order to help someone who dropped their groceries knowing that you will probably be late.
Kindness is also unnerving. Sometimes instead of keeping people around for our own partial benefit -- or saying yes when you really mean no -- politely turning them away is the kindest thing you can do so they have the opportunity to fill their lives with opportunities that truly align. This applies to both love and work.
Kindness isn’t very cool. Cool does what everyone else does in order to fit in. Kind risks rejection to do what’s right instead of what’s popular.
For those asking themselves, why aren’t more people kind? It’s because it is harder than complacency. However, for those who rise to fulfill the demands of kindness, true, lasting rewards are in store.
The Rewards of a Kinder World
Kindness creates unique moments of deep, meaningful, and authentic connection. Last year, when I stood in the doorway of a grieving stranger with flowers in hand and told her I understood her pain because of my own loss, each of us felt less alone. More understood. Fully seen, yet accepted. When I relive this moment in my memory, I feel warmth fill my heart, whereas thinking of my grief before felt very, very dark. Not that I would wish the pain of loss on anyone, but connecting with someone else in this way created a way forward for us both.
Refusing to reach out to others -- either to give them to support or to ask for them to support you -- breeds isolation and loneliness. During the good times and the bad, shared experiences are just better (read this Atlantic article for more information on that), plus it can make us feel like our burdens aren’t as heavy if we don’t have to carry them alone.
Kindness fills our lives with a sensation of purpose. Human beings need to feel like what we do matters; feeling like we’re leading a meaningless existence can actually lower your life expectancy. When we feel like we lack purpose because what we do doesn’t matter it creates helplessness, depression. BTW if you’re feeling lost right now, here are 7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose by one of my favorite authors, Mark Manson.
The truth is, as descendants of a tribal society we are hardwired to belong and help one another, but human society today has evolved to give rise to the individual instead of the collective. From my travels around the world, I’ve noticed that some of the happiest people on earth aren’t those that “have it all,” but those who rely on each other to survive. What can that tell us about the way we are living and how we can live differently?
So anyhow, I say all this so you can understand what’s rolling through my brain as I continue to surprise strangers with the joy of kind deeds then share the stories with you. If the Kind Effect has inspired you in any way, please let me know! And if you would like to keep up to date on what kind antics I am up to next, please subscribe to the Kind Effect YouTube page here.
Until next time,