My calendar for November has a wonderful quote about how for everything we “want” in life, the thing that makes us happiest can be having someone show kindness toward us, or the feeling of being kind to someone else. It seems so fundamental, so why is it so difficult to accomplish? As I go through my day in Interested Observer mode, watching and considering what I and others around me are doing, I am frequently taken aback by how easy it is for someone to just ignore someone else, or speak harshly to them. When driving in my car, I find that maybe one out of every 7-8 people will let me out in front of them, or allow me to pass them to get into another lane. In fact, where I live the road rage is so bad that if you do put on a blinker, people will speed up so that you can’t get in front of them! Where is everyone going in such a hurry that showing common courtesy is so difficult? Last week I wrote about the retail providers who take such grief from customers. One person who read my blog sent me a personal note to tell me about the school her son attends (a public one). There was a sleepover, and parents were asked not to attend because the school wanted it to be students and teachers. One mother was so upset at being left out that she actually wrote a note to everyone on the school’s email list calling the principal a number of nasty names! Why such anger and outrage? It seems to me that the idea of “common courtesy” is not so common anymore. When someone is nice to us, or goes out of their way to do something or say something kind, we really FEEL it because it is so unlike what happens to us on a day-to-day basis. Now this isn’t to say that we don’t sometimes control others’ responses. I’ve had many occasions, as I write about in my book “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior”, where I was introduced to a person and told by a friend or colleague that the person I was to meet was a “jerk” or rude or some such negative thing, only to find out on my own that I really liked the person and found them quite charming. I think if we assume that others will be kind toward us, we tend to find this more often than not. It’s in watching others in the public domain that I notice the lack of courtesy and graciousness. The other day I was going to the post office with a letter that needed extra postage. As I entered, there was a man coming from the other direction at approximately the same time. He visibly sped up to get to the line before me with his eight boxes to mail. I had to laugh about it because it was such an obvious example of “it’s all about me”. Sometimes during our day we are so intent on what we need to do, where we need to get to and what we need to accomplish, that woe to the person who stands in our way! And I don’t want to sound as if I am sitting in judgment, because I have been guilty of this behavior on too many occasions myself. If I am late for an appointment, or my kids need to get somewhere, I am not nearly as courteous as I am when I feel I have more time. And yet, what difference does it really make in the scheme of things? Would letting someone else in front of me in line, or when I’m driving, really matter so much to the final outcome?
This week, think about kindness and look for places you could be more kind. It could be something as simple as the way you talk to your parent, or your significant other. It could be letting someone in front of you in line somewhere or driving with more courtesy. Maybe by being kind, we can be part of paying it forward and creating a ripple effect. Be someone who chooses kindness this week.