Creating a Culture of Kindness

A lot of people feel like the simple small things don’t make a difference to the world around you. I tend to be someone who thoroughly disagrees with that, even though I am quite cynical to the world around me. Creating a culture of kindness around me has probably been the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m not talking about giving with the expectation of receiving, but rather just giving. If you receive something in return, no matter what it is, then obviously, be grateful, but most certainly don’t expect it.

On Giving:

When I was 15, I was in a circus musical as a singer.  I had also been dating a boy who was in that musical who was a stunt person. We had broken up about a week beforehand, and everyone, the entire 70 person cast was on stage rehearsing the big number. This boy whom I had just broken up with was a juggler who was going to roll across the stage on a giant, inflated blue ball, and on cue, he did. He got half way across the stage before losing control. The juggling pins flew, and he landed flat on his back on the hard stage. And I didn’t do anything.

I stayed where I was, feet glued to the ground. I wanted to run to him and ask if he was okay. I had broken up with him, but he was still a nice guy, and he was hurt. And I didn’t do anything. I watched him get up, slightly embarrassed and obviously hurt, and limp off stage with his pins to get an ice pack, and I didn’t do anything. I don’t regret a lot of things in my life, but I regret that.

Fast forward 5 years. That boy has since been in other relationships, still juggles, and I think is currently working on his PH.D in molecular physics or something else that is complicated and science related. I am at a different university, and was on break from a 3 hour class, grabbing a soda. And it happened again. A boy, this time one I didn’t know, was skateboarding way too fast around a bend, and went flying off his skateboard. This time, I ran to him, asking if he was okay, and catching the skateboard that was rolling in the opposite direction. He was fine, thanked me for catching his board and hopped back on and kept going.

Does this undo the fact that I didn’t help my ex-boyfriend when I was younger? No. But at least I know now that I am willing to run and help someone if they need it, and not worry what other people around me think. Back then, I was scared of what people would think if I went and helped that boy. But it’s not about what other people think. It’s usually about doing the right thing.

On receiving:

I am a bus rider. I take the bus everywhere, and pretty much know the routes like the back of my hand. I know who I will see on certain buses at specific times. And I know when someone is tired and needs a seat. So I get on the bus one day to come home from campus, and I get the last seat. I sit, and as I do, another girl in a coffee shop uniform hops on. She looks a tad frazzled, is covered in chocolate syrup and kind of smells like sour milk. She stands, leaning against one of the handle poles, and gives a sigh of exhaustion.

“Do you want my seat?” I ask her, fully expecting her to say yes.

I probably should have gotten up and given it to her, but hindsight is always clearer than how you originally go through a situation.

“No, I’m okay, thanks.” She smiles, and continues holding the hand rail, and I continue to read the paper. Interaction over, right? I decided to be kind; she didn’t take my kindness, no good deed done.

She sits down next to me as the bus empties. “What you did was really nice. It’s my first week here, and it’s been really crazy, and you brightened my day. Here” She hands me a little envelope. “I hope you like Starbucks,” she says as she gets up and gets off the bus.

All I did was offer her a seat, and in my hand was a ten dollar gift card. I didn’t do anything really. Maybe she’d had a terrible day, and that was the first nice thing someone had done for her. Maybe she was just a really generous person. I haven’t seen her again, but I wish I could say thank you.

________________________________________________________________

I have learned over the years that you cannot always be kind. Sometimes, you feel like other things take precedent, or that it is too hard, and that sometimes you have to be selfish. And yes, those things are true. But be kind anyway. Offer someone a seat on the bus; check if their okay when they get hurt, leave them a note in one of their books saying that they are wonderful. Do something nice every day. Chances are, something good will happen to you too,

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