Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cultivating Kindness

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A few months back I was in a store and the check out lady was being very difficult. Normally I just shrug off this type of behavior as the product of something that happened in the person's day and move on with my life. Unfortunately I was also having a rough day and I wasn't my best self. Don't get me wrong, I didn't make a scene or throw a fit, that's not me. I was, however, sarcastic and clearly annoyed. I left the store angry with her, angry with myself. I stewed about it for ages. Initially I was just super upset with the woman (what she did is really of no consequence though), but I began to wonder why-if she was in the wrong- was I feeling so terrible for days after the event. Eventually my head cleared enough of the emotional debris that clutters a tense moment. I reminded myself that I had no way to control that woman and her bad attitude. The only control I have is my reaction and that day my reaction was sarcasm, the lamest reaction to have. Clearly not a great revelation, but a good reminder.

Slowly I have let that moment pass into my memory as a learning experience. Well, that is until last week when I spotted the woman and her young daughter at a thrift store. My initial reaction was a desperate need to escape any contact with her. Then I thought about how long I had pondered this encounter. I felt bad for losing my cool and forgetting that she has her own problems, which had clearly spilled over into my world.  I took a deep breath and  with my two girls in the shopping cart I walked right over to her. I was most certainly prepared for a second dose of her bad attitude, but I needed to get something out there. I took a deep breath and said, "A few months ago I went through your line and I was not my best self. It has been bothering me ever since and I am sorry." 

She looked surprised. She smiled. She said, "No big deal." And that was that. She didn't return the apology and that was fine, I didn't want her apology.  I just needed to move past my moment of negativity. Our daughters spoke for a moment. Her daughter was four, close in age to Cordelia, but she clearly had some sort of disability. I looked at that woman and smiled, wishing her a nice day and then we left. My heart was a bit lighter. I got the instant reminder that each person is fighting their own battle, and that is something I can't afford to forget.

Cordelia asked me about the experience and I explained in simple terms what had happened. I want my girls to see that it is OK to make mistakes and to just move forward, growing beyond them. If I teach my children nothing else in this life I do hope that I am able to teach them the importance of simple kindness. I want them to see me do my very best to be kind and I want them to follow suit. To that end our family has started a new practice. Every night at dinner we are sharing something kind that we did for another, this isn't a brag moment, just a way to keep our family focused. Cordelia really understands and is excited. Elise kind of gets the idea at age two. So with her Eric and I will help her recall something she has done like helping me cook dinner or putting away her toys or giving her grandpa a big hug.We know that at the end of the day we will be asked to report something small that we did for another, a compliment, a door held, whatever. Hopefully this will help us all to remember that kindness is important every day. This is also a way that we can give our children positive feedback for their good deeds, however small they may be.

8 comments:

Stacy said...

Awesome lesson. I've had occasions like that recently. Someone jumped down my throat. He didn't know what I was going through no more than I knew why he overreacted as he did. Kindness is key.... we're all fighting a battle of some kind.

Mom said...

Oh what a wonderful idea! I love it and I love you!

Sarah Purdy said...

Glad you were able to have some closure with that incident.

Anne Jezek said...

You are my hero. Plain and simple.

Marie Roxanne said...

Some people say "no big deal" or "no problem" as an apology, because it's hard to say sorry, but knowing she has a special needs child and her working, you understood why. And I am glad you did what you did, one of the fruitage of the spirit, in the bible, is kindness.

RunwithSticks said...

This is great Maria - all of it. Big of you to go back and say something, not many people would. And a great example to your girls.

Emily said...

You are setting a great example for your girls. I know it would have been easier to slink out the door without saying anything to her, but you put your big girl panties on and did the right thing. You can't control others' responses, but you can control your own. :)

Tammie said...

oh maria rose i love this! this is why, even though i rarely read blogs anymore, i still read yours. xoxoxo

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