"Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." - Tolstoy
"Surrender to kindness." - Stephanee Howell at www.makebelieveboutigue.com
Kindness is like a tree. It grows from a tiny seed and then roots and sprouts in different directions creating new life and beauty along the way. We can't see how deep or how far reaching the roots travel or know how many lives have benefited from the shade and oxygen the leaves provide.
When thinking about kindness, the Mother Theresa quote, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love," comes to mind.
And no where is this more true for me than at the grocery store.
I often complain about going to the grocery store. There, I have bumped into people, hid from people, thrown up in a reusable shopping bag when pregnant with my second child, and strolled around with an older bagger who pushed my cart while I held my new born baby not knowing where to put him while I shopped.
Once, I had a panic attack when I left my two year old daughter in the shopping cart and sent her for a "ride" with my groceries in the very steep cart escalator. I screamed and flailed and freaked out until an employee came over, stopped the escalator, walked up the other side and grabbed her, fortunately unharmed, out of the cart. She was holding my phone at the time and had, unbeknownst to me, recorded the whole ridiculous event. She seemed to not think much of the whole ordeal while I found it terrifying and humiliating.
Another time, I had a meaningful chat about life after death by the nuts (maybe not a coincidence.) And the day I lost my dad, the clerk at the register lifted up a bag of prunes forgotten by a miserable man who had scolded me after I spilled a container of yogurt, and declared that, justice had been served!
Last week after shopping, I watched a man help an elderly woman struggling to push her shopping cart over a ramp. Before I could put my cart aside to help her, he eagerly asked her with a voice like liquid honey, "Do you need some help?" I smiled at him and he winked back with a twinkle in his eye.
Seconds later, feeling bolstered by the kindness I had just witnessed, I watched as a young guy stopped his car in the middle of the parking lot on a busy Sunday afternoon to usher an adorable family of ducklings across the street to safety.
I stood with goosebumps and tears in my eyes.
And just the other day when I started in on a long winded diatribe about chicken pot pies to a woman who I had never seen before working at the register, she didn't look at me like I was crazy. She simply listened. And then cried.
I explained to her that I was disappointed that they didn't have the chicken pot pie in the deli that I like. I wanted that particular variety because I thought my mom would like it. She was coming into town for the first time since starting chemo and it was hard to find the right food to eat. As I rambled on, she stopped scanning my groceries and looked at me with tears in her eyes. She told me she understood how difficult it is to watch those we love go through something so hard.
Then she asked me if she could hug me. It was my turn to cry. And I cried. And cried. And cried.
It was like any other day, but it wasn't.
Sometimes I want to do more to help others. I feel like I am not doing enough.
But If I have learned anything from these kind interactions with strangers while engaging in such an ordinary task like grocery shopping, it is that small kindnesses do matter. And they are contagious.
"There are only proofs of love", Gretchen Rubin writes in her book, The Happiness Project. Most people cannot read minds and don't know how loved and appreciated they are unless we show and tell them.
When I grocery shop, I always forget something important like toilet paper or cookies. Or I spend too much money. Or I am there for too long. Or I would rather be doing something else. But I am starting to change my tune because I have experienced great kindness there too.
And I will never forget that hug and how it changed not only my day, but me.
For a very sad but touching tale about the impact of kindness: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pay-it-forward-said-california-man-matthew-jackson-who-died-one-day-later/