Kind-ness: noun, a kind act.
This is what kindness gets you: a smile, a sigh, a grateful look, maybe a head held a little higher, maybe tears.
I went to get my hair cut this afternoon and when I walked in the nice girl, whose name I don’t even know, called out, “Hi M!” And when I went to sit down my hairdresser asked if I was all right, because, well, I looked like I’d been run over by a truck. I explained very quickly how the day had gone and he blinked for a moment, then walked over to her and whispered something and they came back, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “How ’bout a cup of tea?” And with that she ran to get me one.
Once when I was in London I spent a morning in the British Museum and then went to lunch at a Middle Eastern place in the neighborhood. I love to travel solo, so it was rather odd that I felt incredibly lonely and I missed my now-husband-then-boyfriend J. I ordered and the man gestured for me to sit down (even though there was a sign marked “PICK UP FOOD HERE”). A few minutes later he set down my tabbouleh salad with a flourish and said, “Here my lovely.” Now, please realize that “lovely” is not something I get called. It wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t inappropriate, it was just nice and it made my day better.
When I had son J I had to have a cesarean and it was, easily, the most frightening thing I’ve ever been through. Husband J stood by my side and ran his hand over my hair to calm me down, but when J was born and had to go up to the NICU J went with him (he wasn’t abandoning me, we’d agreed ahead of time that we wanted him with son J so that he would at least have that presence there). When he left one of the interns stepped into his place without a word and continued running a hand over my hair. I never knew his name, or even saw his face (mask in the OR, you know).
One ad day (which, as I may have mentioned a million times before, starts at 3 a.m.) I was heading to the coffee bar for my much needed latte. I saw one of our regulars in front of me and said hi. When she stepped up to the counter she ordered for herself and her daughter and then turned back to me and asked, “What do you get?” I told her she really didn’t need to, but she insisted, saying, “You work hard, you deserve it!”
That’s all it takes: a cup of tea, and smile and a warm greeting, a hand on your hair when you’re terrified, a latte and a “good job”. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Seems almost too simple, that something that insignificant could change someone’s day, or possibly, their life. I’m sure that somewhere in London there’s a man at a Middle Eastern restaurant who doesn’t even realize that some 15 years later a stranger still remembers what he said to her one afternoon. But I do, and I hope I always will.