Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Keeping Kindness Alive & Well

By Brenda Black

I don't set out to do good deeds for the applause. I'm just a natural people helper. I'll jump to aid an elderly person or help a harried parent corral a wandering toddler. I'm quick to lend a hand and don't give much thought to what it will cost me. Oh, I suppose if some overly educated, analytically astute psychologist wanted to pick it apart, they'd probably diagnose my behavior by saying I do it in order to get something out of it. And maybe, deep down, I do. I sure feel better when I see a look of relief or appreciation. I sleep better at night knowing I did the right thing by a fellow human being. It makes me happy making others happy.

Though I don't have an agenda, and it's more of an automatic response, I have to ask myself : Why does it bother me so much when people do not reciprocate kindness or demonstrate basic good manners? And why does it give me such a lift when people react pleasantly? Several days at the state fair is a great place for such a sociological study and self analysis.

My first moments greeting the public as president of the Missouri CattleWomen at the Beef Showcase were met with unexpected kindness. One gentleman started a conversation by asking how things really were going in the beef business. I answered honestly that it's a little rough this year with a drought and high input costs. He went on to show appreciation for the hard work of farmers and ranchers. He told me he knew where his food came from and understood how important agriculturalists are to his life. Finally, this kind person actually blessed me -- literally. And I was genuinely touched by his sincerity.

After several hours of constant people traffic, I took a brief break and strolled through one of the nearby buildings. Ahead of me was a lady pushing an elderly woman in a wheel chair. I quick-stepped past them to get to the door and pushed it open and held it. Neither said a word nor smiled or nodded. And on their heels, a string of 20 people took advantage of my donated door duty. All ages and sizes passed over the threshold and not a single "Thank You." I waited till the parade dwindled and then closed the door and headed on my way, feeling baffled by the lack of common courtesy.

My faith in humanity was restored on yet another volunteer detail. I was the door greeter at the Beef House. Granted, when you are welcoming folks in for a mouth-watering steak, they tend to be in a better mood. But even when the line was half a block long, I met one after another who spoke kindly, smiled brightly and returned gratitude when I assisted them.

Maybe it's simply being observant. To the masses, this gray-haired, slender man seemed invisible. To me he looked like he was in pain. I was right, and stopped to ask if he needed assistance. He thanked me profusely for caring.

It's not difficult to be considerate. It doesn't take a whole lot of time. But it does take heart. Kindness is as old as history. Boaz was a perfect example of such timeless tenderness. “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” (Ruth 2:20)

I was blessed by kindness, drained by indifference and energized, even after 12 hours of hospitality one day at a fair, purely because of the way people treated me. So I think I'll keep on doing what comes naturally. Hopefully it helps somebody else have a better day.  

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