I am a firm believer in kindness; it lubricates life and makes the rough spots easier to bear. To me, a small act – not attention-seeking largesse – is the easiest and most effective. I have enjoyed doing things of that sort, such as allowing someone in line ahead of me at the grocery store; paying for someone’s meal anonymously; and holding a door. (Before I knew it was illegal, I would also drop a nickel in a parking meter if I noticed it was about to expire.)
But what really makes me happy is sharing compliments. If I hear something nice about someone, I feel happily obligated to pass it on to that person. What good are kind words left unsaid? When someone says something nice about me, it gives me a smile inside, and I am honestly grateful for not only the words, but for that person taking the time to share them with me.
When I was a young teen, accompanying my mother shopping was embarrassing to begin with, but once we were in the store it got worse. She hummed, sang, or whistled along with the piped-in music…and she talked to people! People she did not even know!
I was mortified, as many 15 year olds would have been. As I grew older, however, I realized that Mother was just being her irrepressibly good-natured self. She would make a little joke, and people would respond with a smile or a chuckle. She would compliment the checker on the necklace she wore, or tell the box boy what a good job he was doing. What a gift she gave to them! She made them feel good. To this day, people fondly recall my mother and her cheerful, albeit wacky, humor. They remember her kindness.
I confess: I talk to strangers in the grocery store now. I compliment their dress or perfume, make small talk in line, and smile and wave at their small children. I chat about the weather, the game, the traffic, or our shared human condition. When I talk to strangers in line at the bank or wink at the baby in the stroller, I think of my mother, and hope that people will pass that kindness along.