This is the last part of my 3-part series on Kindness and Why It's So Hard to be Kind.
As a quick review Part I and Part II of this series addressed two big reasons why it can be challenging for us to act in a kind manner.
I don't feel I have what is needed (Part I: Incompetence)
Providing what is needed makes me feel vulnerable (Part II: Insecurity)
Part III addresses another big reason: I don't have time right now
In the book Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft, Kraft gives a poignant example of observing a woman in need in an airport. Many...MANY...passed her by, some rushing and some not. Being a passenger on a flight finding your way through an airport is the very definition of not having time to do anything except get to your next flight. Yet, there are those among us who still find time to be kind. There are those who are naturally inclined to see gaps where a kindness from them could bridge that gap. And...there is a willingness on their part to act. But it's hard, isn't it? We are not all wired this way. It's less about being unkind than heightening our awareness to see such gaps...and giving ourselves permission to take the time, to overcome the inconvenience and help bridge the gap.
I don't have any stories in my collection of narratives that specifically addressing this challenge like I shared in Part I and Part II of this series. But I do have stories where someone has noted time is an issue yet they acted nonetheless. This first story links being kind while pressed for time with the feeling of hope.
My husband and I had just lost his brother. More specifically he was murdered. It was a challenging time to say the least. It happened a month before Christmas and we didn't even get to our Christmas shopping until the last minute. We went to do all of our children's shopping in one day. We were pressed for time. At the checkout the clerk noted how many toys we were getting. She looked sad and started crying saying she didn't have enough $$ to get her children anything. During our heartbreak we decided to do an act of kindness. We bought her children the gifts they never had. It gave us hope and filled our hearts. Even in the darkest times you need to find the light.
In this second story the writer notes a situation many of us are familiar with: It's going to take a lot of time.
During the H1N1 flu crisis we were providing immunizations to thousands of people. The most challenging group were teenagers who felt they were invincible and did not need one. I spent a significant amount of time explaining the rationale to a teen and her mother. The youth finally agreed. The mother and daughter "thanked me" over and over for possibly saving her life.
Finally, can we read inconvenience in the body language of others? Consider this story:
I find it difficult to be kind to colleagues when it is obvious from their body language that they aren't interested in hearing what I have to say and are just wanting to walk away.
I now understand that kindness is a journey of lived experiences. It's been a pleasure to be on this journey with you to explore why it can be hard to be kind. I do think we could all be a little kinder if we simply acknowledge there are barriers we have within our own lived experiences that cause us to pass by opportunities to provide a kindness. Barriers such as those that rise from previous experiences of feeling like we don't have what it takes to help (feeling incompetence), or feeling that helping opens us up to being vulnerable (feeling insecure), or feeling we don't have time (feeling inconvenienced).
Remember, kindness is a "we" sport, not a "me" sport.
Finally, kindness is fundamentally about "being in kind with another." Being "in kind" means finding common ground. If we can find similarities, or a common ground, with another, then we can find our way to empathy and kindness. Remember, kindness is a "we" sport, not a "me" sport. It takes one person to perform the kindness, and another person to receive it. A little empathy is required to understand why someone may not have acted as kindly as we expected. We can acknowledge that someone may feel incompetent, insecure, or inconvenienced, then perhaps we can put ourselves in their shoes for a moment of understanding and empathy. And we can be kind.
Thank you for following along.
Keep calm and be kind.
Lorraine & Vivian