By Julia E Hubbel
And here’s a perfect example.
Yesterday I read, and got permission to use, a perfectly lovely comment about kindness. Look, I’ve written about this before, but for my Medium dollar, it’s a lot more powerful when you and I can share other folks’ comments about how they operate in the world. To that, here is Shefali O’Hara’s comment, with her consent:
Small, consistent gestures of kindness change the world. People are constantly telling me how nice I am, which used to really surprise me, because I was just acting the way I was raised.
I grew up with a mother who always planted extra tomatoes so she would have some to give to the neighbors and who would ask the elderly woman across the street if she wanted anything from the store. In India, where my mom is from, she saw her own mother routinely do small acts of kindness — she would always make an extra roti or two to give to the hungry stray dogs and she’d always gather up any leftovers from meals for the local beggars.
I always give up my seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly person and hold the door open for someone carrying packages. I routinely fill dishes of water for the birds and wee critters in my back yard and, in the spring, after brushing my dog’s hair I toss it on the wind so that the birds can use it to line their nests.
It astonished me one time when I was in New York City and this black man was struggling on the sidewalk trying to get his crutches and people just walked by. I stopped to help him and he said he’d been lying there for several minutes. That just astonished me. He said it was because he was black. I couldn’t believe it. Who cares about skin color when someone on crutches falls down? You just give them a hand and move on. It takes half a second.
The other day I read a piece that stated that how you handle your cart in the parking lot speaks to who you are. Okay. Let’s talk. First, whether or not you corral your cart is just one indicator. I am in the habit of not just corralling my own, but last night when an older woman was clearly struggling with her big one just outside Lowe’s after loading her plants into her car, I put hers away for her first. Now.
Did I stand in the parking lot and scream LOOK AT ME?
Did I demand a hero button for being polite? Oh, fer crying out loud.
Nope. I finished with mine and loaded my cart in the corral and went home.
I often will pick up multiple carts at my TJ Maxx store, especially on a brutally hot day and take them back inside.
However, just taking care of your cart isn’t the point. You could simply suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Neatness and not give a flying shit about people.
Shefali’s comment speaks to the fact that we are often born with a kind gene. More so that kindness, an appreciation of others and the ability and willingness to notice other people and creatures in need are demonstrated by example via those closest to us. We are born with the capacity, at least most are, but how we see it modeled has a great deal to do with how we operate.
We learn empathy by watching empathy, although there are some powerful arguments that
humans are often hardwired already to care about others’ needs.