A few weeks ago, standing on the subway platform waiting for a train that would take me home, I struggled to understand an announcement echoing down the tracks. It sounded as though the downtown trains were canceled – and I was going downtown.
I asked the person behind me if my understanding was correct and he wasn’t sure. I then asked four men who were walking toward the exit, and they confirmed the message. So, redirecting my way home, I started walking up the stairs to leave the station.
As I was on my way up, a woman was on her way down. I shared the news that the trains had been cancelled and she thanked me for letting her know. We walked up together, and then she stopped and said,
“I want to thank you for letting me know. English is not my first language, and it is very difficult for me to understand station announcements. I would probably have waited for hours.”
And that was the conversation – a statement, an acknowledgment, and a point of reflection. It might have lasted a minute up to that point, and maybe another minute while I helped her understand alternate stations. And then we parted company, but the kindness of her response stays with me.
Reflecting on Kindness
Sharing the cancellation news was human courtesy – I was being polite, not knowing how long it would be before the announcement was repeated. When this woman shared how my action affected her, she offered me a kindness. She gifted me with an understanding of the impact of my words.
We rarely know how our words and actions positively affect others. Being made aware of that can be a profound experience.
More recently, I received another gift of kindness – this time at a train station in New Jersey where a friend and I were meeting. I walked to the station office and, as I neared the door, a young man sitting on the steps told me it was closed on the weekends. He asked if I needed a ticket and I explained I was hoping to find a restroom.
My new acquaintance was a wealth of information. He pointed in one direction and suggested a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, and then said to be sure not to go to the one in the other direction since their restroom was being repaired. He also suggested a diner, which is where my friend and I ultimately had a wonderful breakfast.
I thanked him for all the information and told him how much I appreciated it. He then said,
“My mother always told me to be kind.”
What a wise mother – and what an equally wise son to take her advice to heart.
It takes no more than a moment to share a kind thought or action. Receiving that kindness opens a much deeper conversation – much of which can be conveyed in silence with a smile. We don’t even have to speak the same language.
Last week, I walked by a group of magnificent roses and immediately took out my phone to capture a photo. Beside me was a man and woman pointing to something in the garden, taking photos, and talking with great animation in a language I didn’t understand.
The man left and I turned to the woman and said, “They are beautiful, aren’t they?” She nodded and started gesturing toward another part of this garden, further back. I had been so taken by the beauty of the roses near me that I had missed looking beyond them. They were only one small element of a design filled with geometric shapes of greenery and splashes of color.
We exchanged a few brief sentences, each in our own language, thanked each other, and parted company. My heart felt full – kindness does that. I hope she felt the same.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” –Lao Tzu
Greenwich Village, NYC – Photo by the Author