This afternoon I ran into Wal-Mart to grab a couple of items. As I navigated the parking lot my cell phone rang and I began a conversation. Approaching the door a woman was coming out the exit with a grocery cart full of stuff and a pack of paper towels on the bottom of the cart. I noticed right away that the paper towels looked as they were going to fall off and to the pavement. I smiled and said; “Excuse me,” reached down and lifted them back on the cart securely. It happened so fast I’m not sure she was aware at first what I was doing. She replied; “Thank you,” and we headed our separate ways.
It was a small gesture but wisdom writers tell me; “No act of kindness is wasted.” I believe this is true and that if each of us would be alert, aware and willing, we might extend kindness in such a way it would lift our world out of darkness.
Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Good Eye –
Last week I had an important meeting. During it, a woman walked into the room to give the person I was meeting with a message. As she delivered it the other noticed the woman was shaking. She asked; “Are you okay? You’re really shaking!” The person said she had a lot going on and was trying to fit all of it into a small amount of time. She then left the room and my meeting continued. Afterwards, I saw the woman who had been shaking and told her I hoped she had a good day.
As I went to my next appointment I thought about both the woman and the fact that I didn’t notice her shaking at all. I totally missed it. I try to be aware of people and their emotional, mental and spiritual states. I even try to notice new glasses, haircuts, and changes people make but not this time. I realized it swept by me because all of my focus was on the “important” meeting. The person I met with was at the same meeting but didn’t allow it to consume all of her attention and she was able to show concern to someone in need.
It was a good reminder that true awareness is finding the balance between paying attention to ourselves and others.
It’s The Thought –
I sat with one of my regulars for a session yesterday. We made small talk at first asking each other about what’s happened in the last week between appointments. He told me about his weekend and I mentioned the rain and how this negatively impacted my work on the front porch extension. As I said this his eyes lit up and he said; “That reminds me!” and he put his hand in his pocket and brought out an object and slid it across the table.
He continued; “I know you don’t charge for these sessions but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you helping me.” I looked down and it was a gift card for a local home improvement store. I smiled at his graciousness and then slid the card back to him and replied apologetically; “I’m sorry. I can’t accept this gift. We are a non-profit and can’t accept personal payment of any kind but I appreciate your generosity and the thought behind the gift means a great deal to me.” Even as I think about his desire to tangibly say; “Thank you” it brings a big smile to my face.
I have no idea how much the gift card was for and it doesn’t matter. What matters is his appreciation for the times we’ve sat together and worked through some tough issues to help him become the best man he can be for himself and his family. The old adage; “It’s the thought behind the gift that counts” is true and was a wonderful gift that I will value for a long time.
I was listening to a few people participate in a discussion this week on the topic of Donald Trump. The Donald is polarizing! I have yet to meet anyone who’s neutral on him and this presidential race unless they’ve given up on the election entirely.
The central point/question of the conversation was why some people seem to find it impossible to apologize. People who are wrong, off course, exhibit faulty judgement, have it shown, proven, to them yet they still refuse to say; “I’m sorry.”
What does this reveal about a person’s character? Last night, in our incarcerated dad’s class, we talked about the five characteristics of a good man. The first characteristic is, “Self-Awareness.” We defined self-awareness as; “someone who can look in a mirror and see who he is; the good, the bad, what he does well and what he needs to improve.”
Only with honesty and humility are we able to understand our true nature, strengths and weaknesses, and there is no such thing as being free from flaws or defects. Accepting our own limitations does two things; it frees us from the pursuit, illusion of perfection when it comes to ourselves and it lets us love others better because we understand our journey is one of progression not perfection.