The Key is Kindness
I took the bus home in a snowstorm the other day, the snow storm called Bombognesis, which was of not-such biblical proportions here in Albany yet still created quite a mess of driving conditions. I am grateful that I have the option of public transit in my city, and can choose to not clutter overburdened streets with my car, and keep my sanity and safety intact at the same time, all for a buck-fifty.
I waited for the bus for a while, and, having missed my preferred route, took the number 12, figuring a slightly longer walk home would be manageable, even in the cold and snow. The bus driver was surly, scolding people for stomping their feet clear inside the bus as they got on. “DON’T stomp your feet here – you’re making it slippery. DON’T stomp. Did you not hear me? DON’T. STOMP. HERE. Someone will FALL”. And then a woman got on and said to the driver, in a gruff voice “What’s your problem. What’s with YOU?!” and I thought for sure there would be hell to pay. Then both of them burst out laughing and greeting each other saying how it’s been too long and the weather stinks, and how are the kids. The kindness of old friends.
The ride was a bit eventful, including about five minutes of skid and no progress as we turned up State Street. Truly, a slick, butter-like icy slush covered the roads. Rocking back and forth, in a bus, my emotions weather-vaned from relief that I was not driving to fear we would go truly backward to apprehension about pushing a bus up the hill. But the driver managed it, and we went on our way (with some smatterings of applause). As I got off the bus, I said to the driver “Great job on that hill, Sir.” and he looked like I had given him a trophy. The kindness of appreciation for confidence under pressure.
I walked to the store and then home, and one the way encountered several people shoveling their sidewalks even though the storm continued. For this I was especially happy, as it is so hard to walk well on snow-covered sidewalks, and I walk around our town quite a bit. The only way we will ever get to walk-able cities is if we engage the citizens to maintain the walk-ability. A few expanses were one shovel wide. One person was clearing the walkway with a snow thrower and the guy conscientiously turned the throw away from me as I approached. A grateful glance was all I could manage over the loud motor. I came to one pristine 5′ wide, gorgeously shoveled and swept sidewalk and saw the gentleman sweeping the steps of the community home. I asked “Did YOU do this whole sidewalk?!” (it was cold and windy and quite a piece of work) and he sheepishly and quietly said that yes, he had and I responded “Thank you, it is wonderful and I appreciate every clean, safe step.” The kindness of a thank you for the “daily” work you face and do well.
I can’t help thinking that each of these moments of kindness,experienced in just one short journey home, feeds the sustainability of these people, and it probably makes them more able to face their work, but helps them to perform that work better overall. And I need to take this lesson into my work at my office and with the people I deal with. Why are we so often stingy with gratitude or raise or celebration? There is no cost to reaching out with a kudos or a thank you, yet we dole them out sparingly like oranges at Christmas in the 1800’s. Each one of these moments could have gone by without a thank-you, or a nod, or a joke, or a short burst of applause, and we all would have been sadder for the lack.
What is truly fascinating to me is that I walked away from each of these moments a happier person. My choice to share my appreciation, to give a compliment, to take a second and connect with someone I did not know made my day better. Despite the snow and ice and cold and the wicked load of groceries I ended up hauling home, I walked with a jaunty step, more content with myself, my day and my neighborhood. Another lesson to take with me on a daily basis. I can create joy in my own efforts by giving out joy and appreciation of the efforts of others.
Happy New Year,