By its simplest definition, “kindness” is just a synonym for friendliness. And I like to believe that I am a friendly and therefore “kind” person (also funny, lovable, uber-smart and modest). I have been known to help little old ladies shove grocery carts across parking lots and I almost always offer up a sympathetic smile to parents wrestling with crying toddlers. But I recently came to notice that my kindness has a certain ‘shallow’ quality to it that is not flattering. You know what little old ladies and crying toddlers have in common? Cuteness. And apparently my willingness to offer up kindness may be in direct proportion to the cuteness level of the recipient.
Homeless girl strumming guitar and sitting with cute dog will definitely get a smile and a couple of bucks but smelly homeless guy … I’m more inclined to start looking up at the clouds or out into traffic until I am well past him.
If you want to really learn about true self, may I suggest that you start walking around the streets with a four-legged companion. Your hairy friend will have no problem offering up kindness to every person you pass. He will wag his tail (or, in the case of my poor, tail-less schnauzer, maniacally shake his entire back end). He may even pull on the leash a bit, in an effort to get a little closer to the object of his affection. This is where the truth will be revealed…
When that tail wag (or maniacal shake) is directed at a sweet little old lady or a toddler, you will feel the corners of your mouth turn up. You might even offer up a quick nod of the head or some inane comment about the weather as you pass. But what happens when the person you are sharing the sidewalk with is the smelly homeless guy? Will you share a kind, friendly moment with him too? (Two-thumbs up if you can confidently answer ‘yes’). Or will you give the leash a little tug and hurry past?
The more I walked the more I noticed my reactions to people, but you know what else I noticed? Once I really looked at smelly homeless guy (which was unavoidable because you can’t tug a 45 lb dog past anything he is interested in sniffing) I came to see that he was far more sad than scary. And when I smiled at him the first time, he smiled back, and it was a beautiful smile.
Kindness happens naturally when you really look at someone. That’s what my dog taught me.