It’s amazing how just starting a project like this one had the power to make me want to be a little more friendly, to be a little more patient, and to open my eyes a little more to the needs of the world around me. When my mom and I went on our first shopping adventure to gather supplies, without saying anything, we BOTH found ourselves talking to the people we encountered, asking store clerks about their days, etc. We talked about it afterwards and agreed: even preparing to do good things made us want to do good things everywhere we went!
In a previous post I mentioned that “be nice to everyone” turned out to be one of the most powerful things we did on RAOKK Day. On the face of it, we didn’t do anything remarkable. We were patient in traffic, we stopped ourselves when we caught ourselves becoming annoyed with drivers who did things we would have preferred they not do (how’s that for putting a positive spin on it?), let others who were in a hurry go ahead of us in line, made sure to say heartfelt “thank you”s, etc.
The impact? Huge. I became aware of just how much time I spend speeding through life letting myself get irritated by rude drivers or by distracted people at the store. I noticed how often in a normal day I might interact with someone without ever truly looking them in the eye (such as a cashier at the grocery store). I noticed how often I walk by situations where I might be able to help–where I could pick up a couple pieces of trash or where I could stop and hold a door or carry a package for someone.
Little opportunities to help others are quite literally all around me. I’ve just chosen, up to this point, to allow my needless hurry and inattention to keep me blind to those opportunities.
On RAOKK Day, a friend of mine wrote, “I’ve made an interesting observation today, on kindness day… The people who are negative and unkind by nature are either more so today (unlikely) or I’m just noticing it more because I’m trying to do the exact opposite.”
I couldn’t agree more. On that day, when I heard people around me being negative, it was almost like I could FEEL their negativity. Like some kind of nasty energy field emanated off of them into the world around them. I was SO intensely aware of it. I was also intensely repelled by it and couldn’t wait to move away from it.
I noticed the same thing in the days to follow. Speaking with people from whom I’m accustomed to hearing frequent complaints and negativity was a totally new experience. Usually I blow off the negativity in an effort to get the job at hand done. Those days, though, I found myself being so stunned that I was sometimes unable to respond. My brain was caught up processing the negativity, wondering how I’d gone so long without noticing how intense it had become.
Which, of course, led me to do some serious self-reflection about the way -I- interact with the world. I know for SURE that I don’t want to be that person who brings negative energy into the world. If I’m honest with myself, I also know all too well that often, I am that person. This realization made me a little sick to my stomach, but I’d rather have the wake-up call now instead of somewhere down the road.
So, I’m working on it. I’m making a lot of mistakes and taking a lot of missteps, but I’m working on it. When I’m involved in difficult situations at work, I’m doing my best to remove the drama and speak of the situation as it is–nothing more and nothing less. I’m doing my best to challenge negativity when it presents itself to me, either by challenging the person’s narrow view of the situation or by reminding them of the potential opportunities that come along with whatever the situation is.
This isn’t to say I’m becoming naive about the reality of the challenges we face. That’s just not me. I’m just beginning to understand that we really DO get to choose how we react to the world around us–and choosing to see potential and opportunity is far more constructive than spreading more negativity in a world that already has plenty.
The week after RAOKK Day, I found myself standing in line at a doctor’s reception desk. While I was waiting, an elderly woman in a wheelchair came from behind the desk, obviously headed for the exit. There’s not much space in the lobby to navigate a wheelchair to start with, so with several of us standing there, she was just about stuck.
Seeing what was transpiring, I jumped toward the door and said, “Let me grab that for you.” I held the door so the woman and her husband could more easily make their way into the hallway.
Once in the hallway, the woman looked at me and thanked me and said “You’re an angel.”
I was speechless. An angel? All I did was hold a door in a situation where an extra hand was obviously needed.
I guess sometimes it’s that simple.
I’m certainly not an angel, but I know for certain that there’s an angel in the form of my beautiful friend Katie guiding me toward a more meaningful, loving life. If I’m willing to slow down and listen to her gentle, quiet, guiding voice, I can only imagine what beauty might lie ahead.