It seems, in general, that kindness is a rare thing these days. What makes this shortage even more appalling is that kindness itself can manifest in so many different ways; there's not one singular way to be kind. Can it be that we've turned into a society of mean-spirited, spiteful, selfish people? Or is it simply that we're all too busy rushing about, going from here to there, focusing on whatever our end goal is, that we don't even think about kindness? "I'm sorry, I just don't have time to be nice to you". That doesn't play well, does it? I can't say it's any better than being outwardly mean.
When it comes right down to it, kindness usually doesn't cost anything but time. Think about it. What does it cost a person to: a) send a short email to someone telling them you are thinking about them on what you know to be a difficult day for them b) tell a person next to you in a check-out line who looks decidedly down that you love their (fill in the blank so long as you mean it) shoes, hair color, wallet, outfit, etc., or, even better, let them go ahead of you, too c) SMILE at the clerk taking your money d) offer to do a chore around the house even if it's not technically your responsibility or turn e) give a loved one a big hug for no reason f) NOT say (or post) something snarky about someone, even if they "deserve" it; well, I could go on and on; but in all of these examples, the only thing required is a well-intended heart and time (and sometimes not very much time at all).
The other day in the paper, I was reading about a study done on customer service people and how they interact with their clients. I'm fairly certain the study was conducted incognito because the behavior of a goodly percentage of these employees was far from that which would garner top scores. In fact, it was really dismal and disappointing to read what these folks were or were not doing, with behavior ranging from the employee acting put upon when a request (totally within their job description) was made of them to outright rudeness to completely ignoring customers in favor of something really interesting on their smart phone. Yes, yes, we, the consumers of the world, can chose to walk away (and most of us would). It doesn't make it right. Heck, if people being PAID to be kind can't be kind, what can we expect from each other?
I had quite the opposite experience today, which is what prompted this particular post.
Most of you out there who know me know I am THE Typhoid Mary of anything electronic. Computers, Laptops, Cellphones, Cameras. Now, as of today, we can add Tablets to this list. I bought a new one a few days ago and, while I was trying to get used to typing on it (no Swyping, unfortunately), I remembered I had bought a stylus for my Smart Phone (they fit right into the ear bud jack on any such device). In it went and I was soooooo happy. Until this morning when I went to take the stylus out of the jack and, somehow, inexplicably, it snapped in half, leaving a goodly portion of it inside the jack. Not. Good. This means I can no longer connect a stylus (the only point to this is so you don't lose said stylus) but also, more importantly, I can't use that jack for ear buds now. Now, in all honesty, I probably wouldn't have since my phone is much easier to cart around to listen to music, but still. A brand new Tablet already mucked up.
Mr. B suggested (after he tried very hard not to roll his eyes at me (but he did exclaim, "NOW what did you do?") and after making a valiant but in the end futile attempt to dig the offending piece out) that I take it to a local repair place, the owner of which he knows from his BNI group. So, off I went, ever hopeful. The owner, Allison, explained to me that she couldn't take the Tablet apart because it would never go back together quite as snug as before which would be worse than my current predicament since I'd end up with all sorts of crumbs and purse lint inside the device. But, she was kind enough to contact Samsung to ask them what I should do (the answer was send it in so they could charge me more than the Tablet was worth to fix it but that's besides the point). SHE was totally KIND plus she went above and beyond (and she gets extra kudos for not calling me Typhoid Mary). And, all it took was some of her time.
A bit bummed about the Tablet (even though it really doesn't matter that much) I headed off to shop a swimming suit sale at Bealls. Ladies, y'all know how incredibly depressing this can be, and, in fact, I'd already bombed out the day before at another store so I wasn't holding out much hope. At least today I was armed with the store flyer advertising 40% off swimwear and cover ups (the exact language, which becomes important later on) and a $10 off coupon. Oh, I only had until 2:00 pm to use the coupon, BTW, so I was rushing about trying on a slew of suits. I finally found one I quite liked (happy happy joy joy) however I was perplexed by the fact the rack it was on didn't have a 40% off sign but many other racks nearby did. I looked down at the price and....gasp. Ok if it was 40% off + $10, NOT ok full price.
I went off to a price check station just to double check. It rang up full price. Right then, a sales lady named Pamela happened by and said, "Oh, what a lovely suit!" "I know, I said wistfully, but, it's not ringing up on sale". She stopped whatever it was she was doing and came over to look at the screen and then the flyer I was holding. "Well, it should be on sale, shouldn't it?" Off we went then with her taking me all over the store, first to the manager of swimwear where we were told, "That brand is not included in the sale" to guest relations where they said, "That's the way it is, if it was on sale, the flyer would have said Entire Stock". Pamela would not be thwarted, however, telling me, "It's not right. It doesn't mention any exclusions and I want you to have that swimsuit!" So, off we went again until she finally found the store manager who, probably accustomed to Pamela's zeal, gave in and told me I could have it for the sale price. Bear in mind that the first lady we'd run across, the manager of swimwear, had asked me if I still wanted it and when I said "not at that price" took it away from me without another word. Pamela marched over to where the suits were hanging and found it and handed it back to me with a big smile. An added bonus; total kindness AND a big smile to go along with it.
Galatians goes on to say, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another and envying one another". 5:25-26
Suffice it to say, I've been thinking a lot about "The Fruit" lately :-) I am pondering not only how to personally exhibit them, but, more importantly, to feel them residing within me as naturally as my beating heart, my breathing lungs and my mind that continues to seek answers. I think in part because I have been searching, I am finding them out there in others.
And, unlike the admonishment from Romans 12:17 not to repay anyone "evil for evil", I will definitely be finding out how I can return Pamela's kindness by writing a "satisfied customer" letter on her behalf; while Allison will be getting our business to replace Typhoid Mary's worn out laptop keyboard.