In life, you can never do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every single time I unload groceries from my shopping cart into my car, I think about a video from my doctorate program. The topic had something to do with character traits, and the video demonstrated different ways to show kindness and consideration – the foundation of a good leader.
The video narrative involved one man leaving his shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot, while the other man took the time to roll back the basket to the designated cart return space. Just this extra effort, which the narrator termed “an act of kindness,” makes an impact in two ways. First, it prevents the cart from slamming into other cars (which has happened to me), and second, it makes the job easier for the employee responsible for collecting the carts.
That short video changed my grocery store habit: I ALWAYS return the shopping cart. More importantly, it helps to remind me that kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others.
I fear it is a gift that, more often than not, is in short supply. It appears that in our hectic, 24/7, digital life, we have no time for kindness. It is run, run, run and get things done. Many of us do not possess the patience to be kind. Others don’t seem to have the temperament. And being kind takes time.
Back to the grocery store. I remember a particularly busy day with long check-out lines, when I found myself directly behind an elderly woman painstakingly writing out a check. I could feel the people in back of me slowly losing their minds. Some even started making snide comments. I, too, had no time to spare, but my empathy for this woman eclipsed my need to get back to my life. Why? Because some day that will be me, if I am lucky enough to live that long.
So I simply smiled at her, smiled at the checker, and turned my impatience into patience and my snarky thoughts to kindness. And I felt so much better than letting this small moment raise my blood pressure.
Extending kindness makes ME feel so good that I constantly look for ways to create a connection with the people I encounter, no matter how fleeting. If I notice someone can’t reach an item on a top shelf, I offer to help. When I see one member of a couple or family taking photos of the rest of the group, I offer to take the entire group’s picture.
I smile at people. I strike up random conversations while waiting at concession stands. I answer email in a timely manner. I provide constructive criticism in a kind way. I listen. I am present. I write thank-you notes. I make sure the people in my life know they are loved.
I encourage you to take the time – and energy -- to be kind. In this increasingly impersonal world, where we spend more time talking to gadgets than each other, it will help YOU connect to the human race ... and pets too!
And don’t forget to return your shopping cart.
Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com