Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 8, 2004
Practise random acts of kindness
Light One Candle
These days airports are not the most stress-free environment, nor are they the first place you look for kind and friendly people.
This is especially true if you happen to be flying early in the morning, which often means getting out of bed at an even earlier hour so you can get to the airport and stand in the security line for what seems like forever.
My wife and I experienced that scenario at the Los Angeles airport early on the day after Labour Day. We were heading back to New York, which meant a long flight, and entering the airport we saw long security lines made up of post-holiday travellers operating on the misguided assumption that by waiting until the day after the holiday everyone else will have gone ahead. Wrong!
As we inched toward the security checkpoint, I noticed that the guard guiding people through the metal detector had a smile and nice word for everyone who went through the arch. I marvelled at this man's unfailing kindness despite some passengers' impatience when their belts, shoes or other objects set off the beeper.
Each time that happened, he would pleasantly ask them to go through again and, when they finally cleared, he apologized for the inconvenience and thanked them. I was so busy watching this man that I was totally oblivious to the slow progress of the line.
When I cleared the detector and complimented him for his courteous manner his brief answer was the surprise of my day: "Thank you, sir. Just living the Golden Rule."
That's all he said. He didn't chat or allow himself to be distracted, but as I was gathering my items from the belt another passenger, overhearing the screener's response, said, "You're doing a good job of it."
As I walked away, I thought about how many people this security person positively affects each day, and how his job requires the kind of concentration that precludes him from acknowledging anything other than the most cursory thanks.
Then I started thinking about all the times I get upset when I do things for someone else, like hold the door, and they don't say "thank you."
If I knew they weren't going to thank me would I hold the door? Do I do something like that just so I can have the satisfaction of a "thank you" which makes me feel good because it's an acknowledgement of my good deed?
Positive change happens when we do things simply and solely because they are the right thing to do, not so that we get noticed and/or recognized. When I was growing up in Minneapolis, we had a neighbour who would shovel the snow off the sidewalk of an elderly neighbour early in the morning and, for a couple of years, no one knew who was doing this - except the paper carrier.
Our neighbour didn't do it for thanks; he did it because it was the right thing to do. What if more of us adopted that attitude - I'm going to hold the door, let someone go ahead of me in the grocery store, wait for the next cab - simply because it's the right thing to do? It would certainly make a positive difference in our world.
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