Small Acts of Kindness

So here it is, Inspiration Monday yet again! I love planning for this post every week. It gives me extra incentive to store up all the good things that I notice in the world, rather than dwelling on the bad. It’s something we all have tendency to do – to replay an awkward interaction, to dwell on a tiff with a friend, or over-analyze an uncomfortable interaction with a coworker. Let’s face it, we are far more likely to remember a bad experience than we are a positive one. That’s a fact that you learn in customer service, that just one bad interaction can ruin 10 positive experiences. And it makes you wonder – why do we give space and time to negative interactions when the positive is so much better?

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On my commute every morning I pass one of the best crossing guards I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. You can tell she loves her job. She chats with the neighbors, helps the elderly, and goes out of her way to make sure that everyone in the area safely crosses what is otherwise a busy, somewhat intimidating, roadway to cross – especially during morning rush hour.

And because we are in the heat of summer, temperatures even in the morning hour have been atypically uncomfortable. More than once I have passed her, both of us with comparable amounts of sweat beading across our foreheads, when – in between deep breaths – we nod to one another and exchange something like “you take care of yourself today” or “stay cool” is enough to say it all.

Still, she is never one to slack on the job. I’m always amazed at how quickly she can spring to attention, even on the hottest days, to guide a pedestrian through the crosswalk, even on a side street.

The hottest day of last week started out uncomfortable with 90 percent humidity and temperatures which peaked in the mid-80’s. It was a scorcher from the start. It was one of those days where, for all its drawbacks, you feel lucky if you work in an air conditioned, temperature-controlled office, even if you don’t have any windows. As I approached my favorite crossing guard, anticipating our acknowledged nod, I saw her hugging one of the older gentlemen that I see in that spot on occasion. I thought it was very strange, especially since was a sort of gruff gentleman, certainly not someone I would expect to go around hugging a crossing guard (regardless of how enthusiastic or helpful she is). But after he slowly made his way back to his car, heaving himself into the drivers seat and slowly making his way down the road, I noticed that she was handling what must have been a gift from him. It was a to-go cup of iced tea.

There are two things I take from this experience:

The first, and probably most outstanding thing for me, was the very thought of giving someone something even if they didn’t ask for it, just because you can. Wow. What an amazing concept! How often do we have people that we see quite often, our service staff, office cleaners, building security staff, postmen, that we never really think to do anything nice for? It honestly never even crossed my mind until that moment.

And the second is that I have come to reconsider what it means to be kind. Sure, I am pleasant when I pass her. I always say “hi” or smile, always say thank you when she helps me. But until that moment I had never even thought of her discomfort past sharing my own. And yet I’m on my way to an air conditioned space, where my water bottle is always full and I have a seat which comfortably occupies my bottom for 8 hours a day while she stands there in the heat and hot sun, sprinting to help others across the roadway.

The next time I see that older man (I really hope I get it right!), I intend to thank him for being so considerate and kind, and for opening up my eyes to showing some extra appreciation for the people that help make our lives easier.