You Are Kind

pexels-photo-188968xmasball

Dear Friends —

It’s a crazy day. It’s the holidays and by all accounts everything in my life feels out of control. My schedule is packed with meetings, in-store events and personal obligations. I show up to work in my yoga gear today as I cannot gather up the energy to shower and put makeup on. I sit down at the design table and tell my team I’ve got forty-five minutes to eat and answer any urgent questions they have before I have to leave again to get ready for the in-store holiday party I am attending that night.

I grab my phone and quickly order from my newest favorite app, Favor. It’s a dream come true. Basically, you are three clicks away from having any meal in Houston delivered to you in the next twenty minutes or so. (Wish I’d thought of that!) I order my lunch and as we are in the middle of discussing the daily to-dos, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number but I answer anyway, which is unusual for me. I immediately hear a stressed out voice, “Hi, this is Jonathan, your Favor delivery guy. I’m at the corner of Woodway and Sage. Do I turn right or go straight? I can’t find the front of the building.”

Since it’s the holiday season, these folks are extra busy running around town doing “favors,” feeding hungry, stressed out Houstonians. I calmly said, “Oh. Okay, I can help you. A lot of people get confused by the same thing. Just go straight through the light, turn right into the parking lot and park your car out front. Turn on your hazards and run up to the third floor. I’ll have someone meet you at the elevator. Sound good?” There was a long pause and he said, “Yes. Thank you so much.”

I hung up, and we went back to our meeting. Calley, our newest design team member, got up from the table and graciously offered to meet him at the elevator. All of sudden, she walked back into the design room with a huge smile on her face and said excitedly, “The Favor delivery guy wanted me to tell you that you were the best customer he has ever had.” “What!?” I said surprisingly. She replied, “Yes, he said you were so nice and he appreciated you taking the time to explain how to get to the office.” Well, I sat there dumbfounded. I giggled a little to myself, ate my lunch and went about my day not thinking too much of it.

Until later…

Before my event, I had a video shoot with Channel 11 to promote Houston hosting this year’s Super Bowl. I felt honored to be asked and was excited to be a part of the Super Bowl host committee campaign. As I arrived at my store to begin shooting, the producer walked up to me and said, “Before we start, I just have to tell you something.” I said, “Okay, what?” And he continued, “I have been doing this many years and have never dealt with such a nice group of people. Your store people have been so friendly and accommodating. Your marketing director has been wonderful, and you just walked in with a huge smile on your face. I just had to say something because this isn’t the norm. Unfortunately, kindness is a scarce resource these days.”

Well, there it was – my “ah-ha” moment for today’s post.

As I reflected on these two exchanges, I began to think to myself: I had no agenda. I didn’t think about being extra nice. I was just being me. I started to realize that kindness creates more kindness. It’s a ripple effect. I was kind to the delivery guy. The delivery guy was kind to Calley. Calley was kind to share her enthusiasm with all of us. Kindness multiplied!

From an early age, we are taught to be kind, yet be kind with conditions. Be sensible. Be practical. Don’t get taken advantage of.

How many times have you heard: don’t give a homeless person money, give them food because they will spend your money on drugs. So let me get this straight, every homeless person out there is a drug addict seeking cash to get their next hit on your dime. Cynical, are we? Could it not be the case of a human being making a poor choice or being the victim of an unfortunate circumstance that lead them to lose their home? Negativity bias tells us that people will let us down and that’s  just the way the world works. Or is it?

Why has kindness become scarce? Why are we on the defensive? Why do we presume negative outcomes?
I believe we are taught that kindness requires a certain reaction and that our kind efforts are to be rewarded, almost like an instinctive cause and effect situation.

This example always gets me — thank you notes. (If I’m being completely honest, I’m not the best at thank you notes. So maybe I am writing this to feel better about myself. Be kind because it is Christmas and indulge me!)

Obviously, acts of gratitude and giving thanks are important. The words “I’m sorry” and “thank you” are probably the most powerful four words in the English language. I guess that what I take issue with is that being kind has come down to playing a game with an agreed upon set of rules. Some of us literally keep score and seek acknowledgement of our kind actions. But true kindness is altruistic.

So let go (There’s that phrase again!) of receiving external validation for your kindness. It’s amazing how freeing that can be. Be kind because it is the right thing to do. Period. There is nothing random or sensible or practical about being kind. We all need to put our Emily Post books away. (I mean no disrespect towards Emily.) Kindness is not a rule book or a strategic business plan. It cannot and should not be rationed. It’s not a material gift. It’s not a note.

Kindness is an act of offering, an offering of yourself, the best version of yourself. Kindness takes courage, self-awareness, vulnerability and faith. Kindness is showing up with presence – I see YOU. I hear YOU. YOU matter.

Mark Twain wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

What if our natural default mode as human beings was to be kind? I wonder what would happen. How many arguments defused? How many hurts alleviated? How many wars prevented?

Be kind everyday because you are kind. Anything else is untrue.

Merry Christmas,
Elaine


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