There is not enough kindness in the world and far too much of the opposite. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with that statement. In everyday life most people (including me until about ten years ago) are so blinded by where they have been and where they are going that little notice is made of each moment’s passing. There were many years I barely paid attention to what was around me and to an even lesser degree, noticed the people in my momentary surroundings. In the last decade a portion of the work to improve my quality of life has included improving awareness. It has made a tremendous difference.
Her name tag read “Sandra” as I walked up to the hotel checkout desk yesterday. We made small talk for about a minute concerning the sun finally showing its face after three days of clouds while she processed my departure. She handed the receipt to me and said “have a nice day”. As I returned the sentiment I looked her straight in the eye making full visual contact for a split second and said “thank you” in earnest. I felt her appreciation immediately. I really saw her and she knew it.
Many people disregard service personnel and treat them at best like they’re not there and at worst in a mean-spirited manner. Certainly I can bow-up to bad treatment when I get it, but when getting decent to good service I always try to connect if only for a moment. Time and time again I have seen how just a tiny little bit of kindness can make a difference. Being pleasant and making full eye contact states that I really do see the other person. That acknowledgment is a small kindness that I am convinced makes a difference.
After checkout, at the front of the hotel a prearranged car was waiting for me. On the way to the airport, I came to know a person I will long remember. Just having sat down in the luxury car’s backseat, an older gentleman who was the driver looked at me in the rear view mirror and asked how I was doing. My usual response of “every day’s a good day, some are just better than others” pleased him. He smiled and said “I’m a blessed man too”. As we pulled out of the hotel driveway our special little time together continued as I asked where he was from. He replied “I was born in Mobile, Alabama”. With my response “I was born in Alabama too” a real conversation began.
So often service people like a cab or limo driver are hardly paid attention to by customers. As I did yesterday morning with who life has thrown into my path, I often try a few exploratory exchanges to find out if a person is interested in conversation. Most are. The driver seemed very pleased that I took an interest in him. I learned he had lived most of his life in Indianapolis, first as a dietitian and later as a Chemist’s assistant. The vocation he loved best was the latter that made use of his minor in chemistry for the last 15 years of his full-time working life. He had retired and moved to Michigan six years previously for the “fishing” he said and was a part-time driver to help afford his “expensive fishing toys”.
Our forty minutes passed quickly and it was only outside the vehicle when he went to get my suitcase out of the truck that I got a full look at him. Short, African-American, full head of almost white hair, dressed well and quite distinguished looking. I put my hand out as I asked what his first name was. He replied “Carl”. I shook his hand as I said “my name is James”. I thanked him for the good conversation and wished him well. In seconds I was inside the airport and Carl was off to pick up his last run of the day so he could go fishing in a few hours. He is now another of my special “temporary friends” who will remain indelibly stamped into my preferred memory.
So long it has been a traveling practice I can’t remember when it began. At least 25 years ago I began consistently saying six simple words of thanks just before I stepped off an airplane and onto the Jetway. A moment before the exit door I direct my voice up front into the command cabin and say “Thanks for a safe ride guys”. Rarely do they miss hearing me. Without fail I get a pleased and positive response from them.
Why do I feel compelled to say thanks to the pilots? First, I am truly grateful for each and every flight I am on that is flown safely. And secondly, I am convinced there is not enough gratitude expressed. There’s an over-supply of bitching and complaining but not nearly enough focus on what is good and goes well. Saying thank you to the pilots is my way of putting a little more goodness into life on this planet. Does it make a difference? Yes, I think it does. Each kindness may mean little by its self, but collectively the total of them all has to make a positive contribution to the overall quality of life for everyone. Further, I know for certain saying “thank you” and expressing my gratitude makes me feel good. And that’s the best reason I know to continue always doing it whenever I can!
Unselfish and noble actions are
the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.