I had to drop off my passport yesterday at a travel agency to get my visa for Vietnam completed. The older woman working was confused as to what I needed and seemed upset that she could not help me quickly, so I slowed down a bit to explain it all to her. I put my phone conversation on hold to let her know that I would wait, or I would leave a note, or I would come back, whatever was easiest for her. Relieved, she thanked me, we finished, and I went on my way, smiles all around. My friend on the phone remarked, “You are so lovely.”
Well, yes. In this situation, kindness was easy—it really was the only option. Upsetting the woman by rushing her, or by speaking unkindly to her, would have just been awful. Kindness was the default button and I was able to press it.
Rewind just one hour.
I had to bring a defective set of headphones back to an electronics store, only to have the employee tell me he thought they were fine and there was nothing he could do except sell me new parts. I was incredulous-“how could these expensive 3 month old headphones not work AND require me to spend more money? That is crazy/impossible/unacceptable.” He continued to say there was nothing he could do, despite my pleading at first, and then my increasingly rude tone of voice. We were at an impasse, neither one hearing the other, and my frustration got the best of me.
It was not one of my finer moments.
How many times is my default set to annoyance, to intolerance? I don’t get angry often, and I hate confrontation, but it is frequently so automatic for me to roll my eyes or sigh heavily to convey my dissatisfaction. I’m the one irritated if you are speaking loudly on your cell phone in a crowded elevator. I’m the girl who cringes at your screaming child on an airplane. I’m the yogi who sometimes even in the middle of a class gets distracted and raises an eyebrow at your cell phone vibrating next to my mat. I’m the coworker who gets worked up over a missed deadline.
I’m the impatient one.
How did that happen?
I participate in random acts of kindness. I tell my loved ones how much they mean to me. I practice yoga. I search for the 5 most beautiful things in challenging moments. I try to add value to this world. And yet I still forget.
I forget to not be critical.
I forget to forgive.
I forget to be tolerant.
I forget to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
I forget to smile.
I forget to be kind.
I was walking through the parking garage, still shaking my head over the encounter in the electronics store, questioning how it had gone so wrong, when I heard the music being piped into the speakers. It was an old song by Jewel called “Hands” with this refrain:
“In the end, only kindness matters.
In the end, only kindness matters.”
It’s as if the Universe (or at least the people who handle music at the Century City Mall) saw my actions and decided to teach me a lesson, one that was much needed at the time. A lesson that caused me to pause, reflect on what had just happened, and be more mindful in my next interaction. A lesson I need to keep re-learning, over and over, until it really sticks.
Only kindness matters.
We are human. We make mistakes. We yell. We curse. We roll our eyes. We sigh loudly. We are not perfect. But if we can try to hit the reset button, just reset even one of those times to kindness, everyone wins. Because at the end of the day, headphones breaking, passports being lost, babies crying, long lines, they all mean nothing.
Only kindness matters.
Photo Credit: Lovely Rita