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Monday, 12 August 2013

Kindness, a Simple Gesture



Upon holding the door for someone entering Scarborough Town Centre behind me, I had a thought. It's a thought I've had for a while, but only now am able to into words.

Kindness.

It's an incredibly simple word, but what does it mean? Is it simply thanking someone for doing something, like thanking our TTC bus and streetcar drivers for getting us from point A to point B safely? If it is, then I enact kindness almost every day. I thank all of the bus and streetcar drivers I come into contact with and wish them a good day, evening, night, weekend, Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I came into contact with the subway drivers, I'd thank them too. Yes, driving us Torontonians around the city is their job but they are how I get to and from work, to and from my English-Japanese Language Exchange, and how I get anywhere I need to go. And, not to put myself up on a pedestal but, I notice the change in their moods when someone thanks them. Those words can mean a lot more than people think.

Now, I want to take this a step further. You're entering a mall, a coffee shop, a subway station. How many of us stop and think about the people who are behind us? How many of us take an extra five seconds to hold the door for the person behind us? It's something incredibly simple, so simple that we really don't think about it too hard or think that it's just common courtesy. Everyone does it, right? Okay, let's change the perspective here. Let's say you are now following somebody into this mall, coffee shop or subway. Despite the fact you half-expect the person ahead of you to hold the door, how do you feel when they actually do? How do you feel when they don't?

Let's focus on how you feel when they don't, just for a minute. You feel disappointed, frustrated, maybe even a little angry. You wonder why that person was in such a rush that they couldn't even stop for five seconds to hold that door open. Now that you've felt that, let's focus on how you feel when they do hold that door open for you. You probably feel happy, thankful, and how nice it was of that person to hold the door open for you. Am I right?

Okay, let's go back to the previous perspective. You are going through a door. You open it and step through. You take a quick look behind you and see there is a gentleman about ten feet behind you. You could let the door door and continue on your way to wherever you need to be. But, no; instead, you wait the three or four seconds it takes for that gentleman to get to the door. He takes it and probably gives you a grateful smile and says, "Thank you." You reply with, "You're welcome," and the both of you continue on your separate ways. Your paths crossed for mere seconds, but he left thankful to you for holding the door and you left grateful for the thank you and glad you could help. I bet your day just got brighter, even for a mere second.

Let's change the scenery a little bit. You're driving along a main road. There's a car in the lane next to you with its signal on. The driver wants to come into your lane. Currently, you are in her blind spot. You have two choices: A: speed up and don't let her in; or B: ease off the gas and allow her to come into your lane. As a driver, I share the road with hundreds of drivers, all with their own agendas to keep and places to go. I have been on both sides of this scenario. I have been the driver that needs to change lanes, and I've been the driver in the lane someone else wants to move into. I do not believe in rushing when I'm driving, because that's when mistakes happen. I am well aware that I am not the only driver on the road, and that having my license is a privilege, not a right. It, really, is not going to make a huge difference in your schedule to let that driver in. It's something simple, but it can go a long way. As a driver, I appreciate it when other drivers are patient and kind enough to let me change lanes ahead of them. When that happens, I will pass that gesture on to another driver somewhere along the way.

We reap what we sow. This was pointed out to me today. Not through words, but through actions. On my way into work this afternoon, I held the mall doors open for two different people; both of them thanked me. I felt good about it. I got my steeped tea at Tim Horton's, the same Tim Horton's I get it from every time I go into work. I thanked the cashier and wished the woman who made my tea a good day. The smile on her face made me feel good. To get to work, I have to walk through two parking lots; one at the town centre, and one at the plaza, in which, I work. Upon coming to the portion that crosses in front of the store, there was a driver wishing to drive by and exit the parking lot. We both stopped. He waved to tell me I could cross in front of him. I felt, at that moment, that my gestures of thanking the bus drivers who got me to work, holding the door and thanking the Tim Horton's women who made my tea had been returned to me when the driver in my store's parking lot waited five extra seconds to let me cross in front of him.

All this is, is my long-winded way of saying that kindness goes a long way and does, eventually, come back to us, sometimes a mere thirty minutes after we gave it. Life is, quite simply, too short to waste on being rude or inconsiderate to others. Now, I am very much aware that not everybody shares my sentiments, but we all know what it is like to not have that door held open for us when we are only a few feet behind someone. It is for that reason I hold doors, it is for that reason I wish people a good day, it is for that reason I thank the TTC drivers for getting me to and from where I need to go. We rely on people every minute of every day. People make our societies function, it is people who serve us in those coffee shops, it is people who drive the taxi cabs, it is people whom we buy our food, clothing and toys from. People would not function without other people. People need people, regardless of their race, creed, gender, age or sexual orientation. People are people and should be treated as such, and as people, we all appreciate kindness. It is for that reason we should give it much more than we recieve it. It will come back to us, sometimes tenfold.

A simple, kind gesture goes a long way. A very long way.