“Be kind”

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My mother passed away over a decade ago but I can still hear her voice saying, “Be kind.” That was her mantra for me whenever I wanted to kvetch about someone. She herself was not always kind but that didn’t stop her from doing her darndest to make sure I was indeed kind during every single one of my formative years.

In the grocery store the other day, a man wearing a store apron and name badge approached me holding a tray. My thoughts went like this: I don’t have time to try whatever is on that tray. I have to keep moving. I just stopped in to get what I need for the wine-and-cheese get-together I’m hosting.

My face must not have betrayed my thoughts because the man who approached me did not try to get me to try his samples. Instead, he looked at me and said, “You have such a kind face.”

He stopped me in my tracks, putting me at a rare loss for words. This is not what I expected. “Why, thank you,” I replied. “I try to be kind—I guess it’s showing now?” He smiled and said, “It sure is.” Then he walked away.

Think about it, folks. Those of us who are vaccinated and fully immune are finally unmasked. And I love that he’s seeing something in faces that maybe didn’t jump out at him before—kindness. Or maybe some of us have allowed the pandemic to change us for the better. Did all my time alone during two cold, dark winters make me kinder? Did it do what my mother yearned to do all those years—take me two degrees closer to being a “really good person?” I don’t know. But I’m glad he saw something that made him feel good.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this pandemic really made us all appreciate each other more? My neighbor texts me now to ask when I’m walking Bailey, our rescue dog and one of the lights of my life. He asks if he and his black Lab can join us, explaining that Rosie won’t walk with just him anymore. She wants company–specifically, my Bailey. They walk side by side, visibly happier to be part of a pack. You see? Even our dogs are appreciating each other more.

As I got out of my car the other day in front of a Latin restaurant, my purse came open and the contents spilled all over the ground. I bent down to pick them up, very aware there was a homeless man who had stopped a few feet away and was watching me. “You think you could help a brother out?” he asked. “Are you looking for something to eat?” I asked. “Do you like Latin food?”

“Naw,” he replied. “I might get some chicken at the Jewel store, though. They got good fried chicken. I ain’t go no teeth. See that?” He asked that while opening his mouth to show me. “I believe you,” I said, “about the teeth. Here. $10. Go get your chicken.” I smiled to myself, thinking that if you can’t eat black beans and rice with no teeth, you certainly can’t eat fried chicken.

I was waiting in line for my order when I said to the manager, “Does that man hang out here often? Outside the door?” He smiled and nodded. “I know I probably just spent $10 on his beer,” I admitted. “I lived in the city long enough to know better. But you never know. It’s close to dinner time and everybody gets hungry.”

The man waiting in line in front of me didn’t say anything but his lips were tight. He’d ignored the man I gave money to—but certainly didn’t come out to help make sure I was OK, despite seeing me crouched on the ground gathering up my wallet a few feet from a man who definitely wanted money.

The manager said, “You did the right thing. You never know when guys like that will get violent.”

As I walked to my car, the homeless man was a few storefronts down, watching me. I waved and said, “Go get your chicken.” He waved back and started walking. And I thought—yes, chance of violence. But I didn’t get that vibe from him.

And then I thought: where does “be kind” start and end? That’s the million-dollar question, Mom.

One more story. Tonight, I met a man named Jason and his small crew of landscapers. Jason had been recommended to do a late spring cleanup in my yard, spreading mulch and neatening up the flowerbeds. I was a little annoyed when he showed because he’d missed a previous appointment and was a couple of hours late.

But he showed. He showed up two hours before dark, as it began to rain, with threat of a thunderstorm. And he said, “Don’t worry. We don’t mind rain. We’ll stay until the job is finished.”

True to his word, they did. And they cleaned up after themselves.

As I paid him, he talked a bit. Told me he was 23 years old. Gulp. Just a couple of years older than my eldest but he easily looked to be in his 30s. I’m guessing his life has aged him prematurely. He works seven days a week, from sunup until sundown. He owns this business and has saved enough to buy a rental property. He was born here but has a thick Mexican accent—I’m sure he may have spent part of his formative years in Mexico. His parents and other family live there, in the mountains.

Jason shared photos of the town where his family lives, showing me the view from the top of the mountain. Then he told me about a little church, quite old, at the top of the mountain where his family and other villagers celebrate the anniversary of a Virgin Mary sighting. He said they keep a full night vigil and feast together in the morning.

“I spend the winters in Mexico,” he said. “But I work hard when I’m here so I can afford to bring my parents here. We’re starting the paperwork.” And then, his face lit up as he said, “I just sent my mom some money two weeks ago. I try to do that regularly. And I’m taking her to Cancun this winter. She’s never been.”

(I can already hear my friend Beth saying, “Only you could know enough to write someone’s biography after just having them spread mulch in your yard.” I hear you, Beth. I consider it a talent! Can you say journalist and humanitarian? Such a catch, oy vey.)

And here’s where Jason has written my ending to this post for me. Really. “I am alone here,” he said. “I don’t really have friends because I don’t have time. I work all the time. But you know what? Some of my customers become my friends. I know a man who brews his own cider and every time I do work for him, he invites me into his kitchen and we drink it and talk together. It’s nice that way. Less lonely.”

And that is when this kind face tried to beam every ounce of kindness in her toward him. “The world is good, Jason. Despite the news, despite the crooks and the violence and the ignorance. There is goodness. There is love. People are kind.” We left in agreement on that.

And guess what? He’ll be back to do my walkway soon. I may not have homemade cider to offer him but I’ll certainly give him some ice water and chat for a few minutes.

After all, it’s nice that way. Less lonely.

42 Comments Add yours

  1. Luanne says:

    This post really touched me. It reminded me of how my MIL on the rare occasions she would hire someone to clean her (very cluttered) house, would sit at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and talking with the lady who would usually barely get around to cleaning the house hahaha. So where does kindness begin and end? I don’t know. I ask myself that all the time because I’m also a cautious person and an introvert. I could never be an actual journalist because of that. But I am so interested in people and, like you, was raised by a parent who instilled very strict values in me although he didn’t always follow them himself ;).

    1. candidkay says:

      I love the story about your mother-in-law :-). Just tonight, I got a pedicure from a young woman who has only given me one before. And as she started to tell me her stories, she did not realize how very awful pieces of her life have been. She was telling me because she theoretically knew they were awful but I don’t think she realized how emotionally awful they were and I kept thinking of my mother’s words – be kind — and yet I had really just wanted to go to this pedicure and close my eyes and relax. And instead I ended up listening to her stories and recommending some counseling to her. So where does kindness begin and end? I guess I still don’t know. But maybe sometimes people are put in our paths for a reason.

      1. Luanne says:

        I so agree with that last sentence. But it is hard and can be exhausting sometimes. I used to feel that way about teaching adults–that I was there to be kind and yet I would get so overwhelmingly drained with the problems of others. i can only imagine how you felt about hearing this young woman’s problems.

  2. Miriam says:

    What lovely stories of kindness and compassion. Despite being oceans apart we seem to have a lot in common. Harry is my rescue dog, I have a son your age (and daughter) I lost my mum 6 years ago and her mantra was also “be kind to everyone”. Oh, and in your more recent post about your beautiful tree of life, I have a similar one too. Anyway, I digress. Wonderful post. I loved it!!! Here’s to being kind. ❤️🙏

    1. candidkay says:

      Living parallel lives! Love that. Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by my blog. Here’s to many more convos over the oceans.

      1. Miriam says:

        Most definitely!

  3. David says:

    I read your posts and they always make me stop and think. That’s a good thing these days when life passes us by in the blink of an eye and at speed. Thank you for sharing and making me think, the world needs more like you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, David, for the kind words. So glad my posts are resonating with you. That’s why I write and it’s so nice when it hits people in a good way.

  4. KRAG says:

    King Henry asks, “Why are you giving these people blankets?”
    “To keep them warm,” says Becket.
    “He’ll only sell it to buy drink,” insists Henry, pointing to a ragged man.
    “Then that will keep him warm,” says Becket.

    It’s more than your face that is kind. It’s your heart, also. Brava.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love this! And thank you, from the bottom of my kind heart:).

  5. srbottch says:

    Kindness is the best policy, isn’t it. Whenever I meet someone, it seems that I walk away from the encounter knowing so much about the person. My wife thinks I’m nosy but I’m just curious. And, you know what, people like telling other people about themselves. And I like hearing it. It’s the salesperson in me. Nice post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! What you’re telling me doesn’t surprise me, given your stories. I picture you going throughout the world having wonderful conversations with people :-). May those continue!

  6. Wonderful piece, Kristine. Anything we can do to make our fellow man or woman less lonely has to account for something.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree, Jennifer. Thank you for the kind words!🙏🏻

  7. Dale says:

    Such a lovely post, Kristine. In the end, it doesn’t matter what he used the money for, does it? You gave it willingly and out of the kindness of your own hear and that is all that matters. What he does with it, becomes his own business.
    I love the gardener story. It sounded like he was sincere and not looking for pity or anything other than to share his story. Which you listened to.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Dale! Yes, Jason is the real deal. He doesn’t tell his story with showmanship or to get pity–he just answered my questions and was real. I love that. And you can tell this boy soooo loves his mama. We mamas love that too, right?

      1. Dale says:

        Oh, I believe it… We do. One outta two will have to do for me, right now.,… sigh.

      2. candidkay says:

        Hang in there, mama!

      3. Dale says:

        Doing what I can!

  8. Robin says:

    This was a beautiful read. Thank you. It can be easy, especially for those who are isolated and watching the news all the time, to think the worst of the world and we humans who reside in it. I’ve found there are more good/kind people than not, but they don’t usually show up on the news. It sounds to me like you are one of those (the good/kind).

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Robin! I try. And so many others out there are trying too. I know there’s plenty to worry about in the world–but there’s plenty to celebrate also. I wish we could find that balance.

  9. Kindness means a lot and you never know just how much.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree, Andrea. I think most of us aren’t transparent about the times we most need it–and when it comes anyway, it’s a blessed relief.

  10. A beautiful post, Kristine. It so reminds me of when I lived in the NYC metro area. I was in the city for a meeting and then when into a deli for lunch. A guy was there with a little sign indicating he would work for food on my way out. It so happened I had a sandwich to go and offered it to the guy. He looked at me like I was from Iowa. We both had a laugh. You still did the right thing since who knows? Your guy may have been an angel.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you, John! I am doubting that he was an angel. Seriously. But, it seemed the best thing to do given the situation. Who knows? Maybe he actually got that fried chicken.

      1. In a three finger glass.

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh, that’s my first good laugh today! Thank you:).

  11. markbialczak says:

    Thank you for your kindnesses to our world, Kay. Your landscaper reminds me of the folks who work on our pool. They get here late and work even later and I remind myself of how many people have new pools these days and how hard these folks are toiling to keep our old pool in good order, and I send them kind words.

    1. candidkay says:

      It was a good reminder that even on days when I get tired and feel I’m working very hard, it’s not the kind of hard that Jason is working.

  12. kathleen madigan says:

    Nice! Makes you think!

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad it did!

  13. Karen Lang says:

    Such a feel good post! 💕Reminds us all we can make a difference and that a kind face or a smile is worth a million dollars 💵 🥰

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Karen! 💕 Glad this one made you feel good!

  14. Thank you for the beautiful stories. My soul really needed them tonight. I truly believe that the pandemic has brought out kindness and generosity in people in greater ways than ever. It tends to be that way in times of crisis. Sure, there has been an awful lot of pain and suffering, but with all the suffering there has been a hell of a lot of altruism and communities coming together, both online and in life.

    1. candidkay says:

      I believe so too! And yet, so many of the stories that we hear are about anything but the good. There has to be a way to better balance the news we get about what is happening in the world. There are so many people out there leading really good lives and doing some pretty wonderful things.

  15. What a nice story. Your writing voice reminds me of a blog I used to read that inspired me to start writing too. Thanks for this post!

    1. candidkay says:

      We’ll isn’t that a nice thing to say on your first visit! Thanks, Stuart. I will definitely check out your writing😀. Keep going! Sounds like you figured that part out by now😉.

  16. Masha says:

    Really enjoyed your stories about kindness, you never know when you’re kindness brightens up someones not just day but life. Thanks for sharing xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Masha😀. You share quite a bit of light and kindness through your own blog!

  17. Thanks for sharing these uplifting stories of kindness Kristine. I love the part about the dogs preferring company. I’ve become a little more recluse. And even though I understand the desire for more company, I don’t act on it much. kudos for caring and reaching out to others.

    1. candidkay says:

      Adam Grant coined a term for what you’re describing. It’s actually an existing word but he’s using it in a new way to describe the way many of us have been feeling as a result of the pandemic. He calls it “languishing.“ I think the article he wrote was in the Wall Street Journal if you want to take a look. And I totally understand what you’re saying. I am trying to slowly re-enter the world of people :-). And while I have really wanted to do so, I also find myself very much in a pattern of having alone time too. I think it’s finding that new rhythm, trying to take the best of what we learned during the pandemic and not lose it while recapturing the best of what we had. You are absolutely not alone in feeling this way!

      1. Thanks for understanding and reaching out. Languishing is a great descriptor, and I’ve been moving this way for years, and the pandemic just kicked it to another level. It’s going to be hard to reverse this boat.

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