You never know who will brighten your day.
At around 8:30 am, I pulled into a parking lot. I was there to pick up my moving truck, and although the day was young, I was already frazzled. I was later than I’d meant to be, and I was running on six hours of sleep after a week where I’d woken up at around 4:30 every morning. I’d spent the night before packing, and the next two days promised to be long. I wasn’t at the end of my rope, but I also knew that a lot of things had to happen for my move to be successful. I’d waited until the last minute to do so much. I could hear my Dad’s voice telling me that this was not a good way to live. I’ve always been the type of person that has to have a deadline looming before any work happens, anxiety be damned.
I walked up to the counter expecting someone miserable, someone disinterested. I was in a hurry, and I wanted someone who would be fast and efficient. What I got instead was an older man with either a mustache, or a space where one used to be. His name was Tom, I think, and when I approached his counter, he started cracking jokes almost immediately. I was anxious about things like heavy traffic, heavy items, and possible injury, but he blew right past my nervous energy. He seemed to be overjoyed that he was alive, and it seemed like he was exactly where he wanted to be. It was hard not to feel the positive energy that was coming in waves.
“I have to check and make sure you’re not a robot,” he said.
“You don’t know that I’m not,” I shot back.
“Actually, I’m a robot, and I can tell who other robots are,” he responded.
A few years earlier, I visited a friend in Connecticut. With the afternoon to myself, I had decided to do some shopping. I just wanted a bathroom scale, but $90 later, I had a full cart, and I was ready to check out. The cashier asked the requisite, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” I’d found so much more than I thought was possible, more than any person should ever need.
After the initial question, she proceeded to ask me about myself. She asked how I was doing. I was caught off-guard. I’d been living in New York, and I’d been so used to a glaring lack of pleasantries. No one seemed to have the time for anything more than that. I was thrown for a loop, and I think I managed a few words before leaving the store dumbfounded. It was as if I’d forgotten how to be personable.
Back in the present moment, I could have asked the guy to cut to the chase. I could have, but instead, I hit the ball back. We chatted like two old friends as he made goofy remark after goofy remark. His humor was of the dad persuasion, and he was old enough to be a grandfather. He seemed to enjoy helping people at a stressful time in their lives. I’m sure that not everyone who encountered him found him to be as charming as I did, but there he was, bringing the brightest sunshine before the clock struck 9. He seemed out of place for a city like Boston (it was Medford, but you get the point.)
I live in a city that many consider to be rude. People curse at each other when they’re stuck in traffic, and if someone is trying to get somewhere, they’re not going to give you the time of day if you ask them. People have their own objectives and goals that they’re focused on. Many of them will not be deterred by anyone or anything in their way. I liked the idea of growing up and moving to a city like that when I was younger, where people did their own thing and said what was necessary to get by. There weren’t many long and drawn out conversations. What was said was said, and that was that.
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but my feelings on the matter have changed. I no longer want to live in a place where rudeness is the status quo, where people ignore others and walk right on by. People can be gruff and dismissive, and maybe it’s a little too pie-in-the-sky, but I’d like to think that everyone can make the effort to be a little nicer and more accommodating. I’m not perfect myself, but I’m working on it. The world would be a better place to live if we were all a little more forgiving, a little less quick to judge, a little more caring about the human race in general. We may have differences, but we’re all dealing with so many of the same circumstances, trials, and tribulations.
I still love living in Boston, but that doesn’t mean that changes can’t be made. I’m not asking you to stop and have a conversation with everyone who approaches you. All I ask is that you make an effort to be nicer to the people in your life each day, even if you’ll never see them again, especially if you’ll never see them again. You may find that your days are more pleasant as a result of having opened up to others, and you might be the happier for it. I wouldn’t ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, and so I’ll strive to be the best version of myself each and every day.
After my interaction, I felt much better. I was more relaxed, more ready to tackle all that lay before me. I couldn’t help myself. I went home and told my roommate about it, and when I mentioned it, he thought I was being sarcastic.
“No,” I told him, “He really did make my morning better.”
A little bit of kindness went a long way. It inspired this post, and it inspired me. Every day of your life won’t be magical, but that doesn’t mean we have to be angry about it, myself included. Maybe this guy was a step ahead of all of us. If I’d had to guess, he was was working his last job before he retired to being a grandfather, but that’s purely conjecture. All I know is that because of him, my day started my off on a much better note than I expected, and that positivity stayed with me. I hope that I made his day, the way he did mine. Thanks for reading.
4 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers”
Jazzed that you had these encounters and how they affected you, Adam. They’re out there for the taking (and giving!) every day. Many of us are simply to busy to pause, reflect and engage with the moment. But you chose to. Bravo.
“The world would be a better place to live if we were all a little more forgiving, a little less quick to judge, a little more caring about the human race in general.” Forsooth. And you’re doing it, man! Do you know how profound your words are? Someone needs to invite you to a pulpit (or any forum at which you can share your insights). This post made my day. Thank you.
I appreciate the feedback, my good sir. Your words are far too kind. It’s definitely enriched my experience when I’ve stopped and slowed down to talk to someone, or to enjoy a moment, but I acknowledge that it’s not always easy to do. Not everyone has the time to engage, and not everyone wants to be engaged, so I enjoy the moments when they arise. Thank you, as always, for reading and providing feedback.
P.S. Love the quote.
You do realize the quote was yours? I simply cut and pasted it in my reply. 🙂 And… my words are not “far too kind.” They are genuinely deserved.
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I am pretty embarrassed, yes, that is indeed what I wrote. I’m having a good laugh about it now.
Hope you have a lovely day, good sir.