small kindnesses

In the weeks after the Twin Towers collapsed, something interesting happened.  People started remembering to be nice to one another.

I’m still not quite sure of the connection between being faced with danger or death, and treating others better.  Maybe it’s a religious nudge some people feel, that they need to try to even out some cosmic scale they’ve neglected.  Maybe it’s that being threatened makes us feel vulnerable, and vulnerability gives way to emotions or sentiments we don’t think serve our daily goals well.  Maybe the stories of people pulling together and acting in courage inspire us.  Whatever the reasons, I only wish they weren’t so short lived.

At core, kindness is borne of the belief that others are worthwhile.  Family members.  Friends.  Strangers.  And while there is virtually no end to the extravagant forms kindness can take, I think it’s the little things that really change us and others for the long haul.

Last week, I had lunch with a new friend.  He offered to pay the bill, a kindness in itself.  But what stood out was the tip.  The check came to twenty-one dollars and change.  My friend scribbled in a five-dollar tip.  I smiled.

Now work this out.  If the bill was $21.00,  a 20% tip would have been $4.20.  My friend gave $5.00.  Why is this such a big deal?  It’s an 80-cent difference.  Are you more inclined to leave a 15% tip?  That would be $3.15 – a $1.85 difference.  Is a dollar or two really going to make or break our financial situation?  If it is, we likely ought not to be having lunch out.  But what does this small kindness do for your server?  It’s only a dollar or two.  But it serves as an encouragement to someone in a very trying job.

Opportunity for low- to no-cost kindnesses are endless:

Leave notes for your kids or spouse to tell them how proud you are of a specific quality of theirs.

Pick your kids up from school one day instead of their taking the bus, and get an ice cream cone on the way home.

Send a no-reason postal letter or greeting card to a friend you value (there’s still something special about getting nice snail mail).  In fact, what if you were to mail a card or note to someone who lives in your home?  What would the reaction be?

Hold the door for someone to enter before you and greet them as they pass.

Take time to remember your waiter’s name and use it every time you address him.  Ask what he enjoys doing outside of work.

Call the number on the “Am I Driving Safely?” sticker to report that, yes, in fact vehicle X is  driving safely.

Ask to speak to the manager and then praise the counter worker who smiled and was friendly as they processed your order.

Pick up the tab for the coffee order of the stranger behind you in the coffee shop drive-thru.

With the attitude that people are worthwhile at the forefront of your mind when you start your day, and just a little creativity, kindness can be a way of life rather than the exception.

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