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The every day acts of kindness

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP / Contributing Writer
| April 3, 2024 1:00 AM

What does it mean to be kind? Do you consider yourself a kind person? The Mayo Clinic defines kindness as “more than behavior”—rather, it is “harboring a spirit of helpfulness, being generous and considerate — without expecting anything in return.” 

I was doing some bank business in Spokane last week. The associate was a young guy with a remote look, and lots of tattoo work on his arms and hands — which I would have asked him about because most tattoos have a story. But he was just too distant. Despite his obvious preoccupation, he heard everything I wanted and did an excellent job completing the transaction.

I wanted to somehow break through to him. In a respectful way, I said, “You're good. But if you don't mind my saying, it doesn't seem you are exactly in love with your job.” There had been nothing in the way of welcome. I probably would have given him an old-school C-minus in customer service.

He answered, “It's been a hard week.”

That shifted my perspective immediately. I asked, “Can I give you a good word?”

He gave a wan twist of his lips and said the last thing in the world I expected him to say: “Some family members passed away last week.”

That was plural — as in I don't know how many. One is hard enough. I did not ask what happened. My first thought was a car accident. I told him, “You are extremely brave to be here at all.”

He had taken a “long weekend” and was just back to work. What could I do in the face of pure grief he was doing his best to control? As I left I said, “I believe in prayer, and I'm going to say one for you.”

I've been remembering to do just that in the hope it will bear fruit in his life. He needs comfort.

When I got to the car I told my husband Terry about the encounter, wrapping up with, “This just goes to show how true that saying is — be kind to people because you never know what they are going through.” 

How would I grade myself in kindness? I'd like to think I get good marks. But not always — and over ridiculous stuff like having to stand in line too long, getting cut off in traffic, or someone seeming distant. And that's out and about. What about at home? That's a whole other sensitive world.

The Bible has this to say, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Which one do I blow first in my day? It is not a five-easy-steps list. But isn't it great to see these attributes as a way I can be? They are not out of reach. It is more about finding them within myself. They are part of the new heart Jesus calls being “born again.”

To really live kindness, to remember it, could give such a new look in my life. And by its nature, changes the look around me. Maybe a good opening question when I wake is simply to ask, “How can I be kind today?”