Be Kind

At the start of every summer, I am fortunate to escape the city and head to our family country retreat in Quebec. I’ve written about this special place many times. We were thrilled to get in the car this weekend and make the multi-hour drive from our home in Toronto. We encountered heavy traffic and on-and-off rain, and in between the skies cleared and we flew past towns and small communities across Southern Ontario.

Suddenly, during one of the periods of rain, the driver’s side windshield wiper flew off the car. At over 100 km per hour, it disappeared fast, off to the side of the road. Luckily it didn’t hit another car or anything else. It was just gone. The rain was coming down, and it was hard to see.

There was a town not far away, so we got off the highway and headed to a larger gas station. Could we find a replacement wiper? Maybe just move the passenger side wiper over? My husband parked at the corner of the gas station and considered our options. He looked at the wipers.

A man walked over, who clearly lived in the town, and politely asked if we needed any help. He held a fresh bottle of Pepsi in his hand, and he was headed back to his pickup truck. My husband hesitated, then explained what happened. The man paused, then he quickly jumped in to help. He grabbed a tape measure from his car and advised us on the exact wiper we needed -which he knew was sold at that gas station.

My husband went in to the station’s store, bought the wiper, and the man waited to make sure we were okay. He even offered to help put the new wiper on. His tone was gentle yet confident. He exuded warmth. Quite simply: he was kind.

Why did something so simple as this affect me so much? What did this man do that was so special? On the surface, it was nothing really. It was a rainy early summer afternoon, and it was easy to offer help. It was only moments of his day, and he then he moved on. He was a stranger, and he didn’t have to help us. He wasn’t obligated.

And yet he did. It made me think about kindness and how there just isn’t enough of it in our world today. I often feel that the world has been overtaken by hatred and anger. Instead of offering a helping hand, people offer negativity and vitriol. Instead of helping you succeed, they go out of their way to ensure you fail.

I don’t just read about this in the news or hear anecdotes. I experience this in my own life. I brace myself every day in case I have to face any barriers – from a fellow driver cutting me off in traffic to someone who shuts the elevator door instead of pressing the open button. It’s witnessing protestors shutting down a street or screaming hateful words instead of keeping an open mind and considering having a dialogue. Or it can be a workplace culture that, on the surface, exudes warmth but instead instills fear in its employees.

Being kind is not always necessarily the only option. I’m not naïve. But it’s rarely a starting point anymore or even a consideration. I tell my children every day how important it is to be a good person – to care for others, respect people around them, and yes, to be kind. If it’s the one thing they learn from me, then I would consider myself to be a good parent.

Am I fooling myself that this is possible anymore?

So, here is my ask, if you are reading this. Let’s all make an effort to be kind. Some examples:

  • Say please when you want something.
  • Then say thank you.
  • Say excuse me if you want to get past someone or if you accidentally shove them.
  • Don’t cut people off in traffic. Go a step further, and slow down to let a car in.
  • Hold the elevator door open for the person running towards you, even if you’re in a rush.
  • If you are in a leadership position, help your subordinates. Raise them up – don’t bring them down.
  • Buy your colleague a coffee.
  • Offer to help carry that giant stroller down the stairs when you see the parent struggling.
  • Even if you disagree, keep an open mind and listen to a different perspective.
  • Take your child paddle boarding (added this one for fun – I just did that today!).

I could go on and on, for pages, hours, or days. It has become harder than ever to be kind. It seems easier to dismiss someone, or their idea, or to ignore them outright. People skip any niceties and go directly to cruelty.

But not everyone. A stranger stopped to help us. He smiled, and he waved. He stopped whatever it was that he was doing, just to be kind. I think we are all capable of this. If we only gave it a try.


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