Extending kindness has to be part of your to do list
I’ve been making a point of extending kindness to those I encounter this week. This came about because we always seem to be in a hurry wherever we’re all going and very rarely do we make a point to STOP and acknowledge other people we meet along the path.
Traffic has been horrendous this week in Halifax due to a big project that will be ongoing for the next year or so to replace one of our lifelines across the harbour – the MacDonald bridge. Everyone has been late for work, tempers are being tried and we all feel very sick of being in our cars on a commute that should take a fraction of the time it has actually been taking.
How many times have you sat on a side street trying to turn onto a busy street or been holding up traffic behind you because the opposing traffic will not let you cross in front of them? Everyone drives by you, pretending not to see you. You feel invisible.
Being considered and cared about is a basic human need
Now, how good does it make you feel when someone affords you the simple courtesy of going before them in line or allowing you to cross their path to get to your destination? If you’re like me you feel like you’re being acknowledged, seen and for a split second, someone cares enough about you to do something for you.
So, in an effort to make everyone’s started-off-not-so-great day I’ve challenged myself to allow anyone who is trying to merge, pull out from a side street or waiting to go across my lane the opportunity to do so. I wave them in the direction they wish to go and smile while doing so.
Almost every single person waves and smiles back. I’ve then witnessed them doing the same when presented with the scenario from the opposite standpoint…they are then allowing other people into traffic ahead of us.
Something that costs nothing.
His simple words resonated with me
Fast forward to this morning. I was grabbing some lunch to take with me to work and when I parked a man approached me. He looked at me shyly and softly spoke…
“Do you have any change? I’d really like a tea.”
I looked down thinking that doing so would be less disappointing to him and replied “Sorry, I don’t.” then walked past him into the store.
In that split second I assumed he was most likely from the nearby forensic hospital. In that moment I passed judgement on him.
As I stood in line getting my lunch order my mind kept replaying those simple words, “I’d really like a tea.”
How many times have I said the same thing – either internally or to other people?
I’d really like a tea.
Sometimes we find kindred spirits in the strangest places
I have no idea if he had said “coffee” if this story would have gone completely differently than it did because I am a tea drinker.
In him I saw camaraderie. A sense of “he’s my tribe”. I saw myself being mirrored back to me.
You see, I know what it feels like to struggle with mental illness. I know what it feels like to have something as simple as a cup of tea make all the difference in my entire world for those few brief moments I savour it. I know what it feels like to feel invisible.
When I went to get back in my car he was approaching other people in cars asking the same thing he had asked me.
I buckled up my seat belt and began to exit the parking lot and then at the last minute decided to put my blinker on for the opposite direction I was supposed to be headed.
I drove up the block to the nearest Tim Horton’s and pulled up to the drive thru.
“I’d like to have a Tim’s card with $10.00 on it, please.” I said.
When you do the give the unexpected, you get the unexpected
Tim card in hand, I crossed the street to the parking lot where I had encountered the man. I scanned the nearby cars and trucks and storefronts looking for him. Then I finally saw him. Standing against a post scanning the parking lot himself looking for someone else to ask, no doubt.
I pulled into a nearby parking spot, put the car in park and got out of the car with the card in hand.
The gentle-looking giant was much taller than me with greying hair, a face full of scruff and was clothed in jeans and a varsity-style black jacket.
As I approached him I smiled and held out my hand toward him with the card in it.
I said “This is for you. It is a Tim Horton’s card with $10.00 on it. I want you to go have some tea.”
His kind, blue eyes lit up and he looked simultaneously shocked and thankful as he took the card from me.
“Bless you dear. Bless you. Thank you dear. Thank you!” he said.
I smiled and said “You are very welcome. I wanted you to have some tea.”
Then I did something I had not anticipated or even planned
I reached out and put my arms around him and leaned in and pressed him to me as he did the same to me.
We stood there, two strangers in a parking lot sharing a hug, but sharing so much more.
He said “Hugs are good. They are SO good.”
I said “They sure are. Now go get yourself some tea.”
I smiled at him one last time then turned and walked back to the car while he continued to thank me.
I put my seat belt on then looked up to see he had vanished.
For a split second I wondered if he had really been there at all.
As I pulled out onto the road I saw him across the street heading towards the Tim Horton’s with a spring in his step.
He might think I made his day.
The truth is he made mine.