As a recap, for 2018 I decided to set a goal for each month and I write about my experience of the month here on my blog. This was inspired by the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, an enjoyable book and she recently released an updated edition for its 10th anniversary (though that appears to only be available in a Kindle version).
My task for October was “Kindness – do something kind for someone every day – mostly strangers.”
I am not an outwardly kind person. If you have are using crutches after an injury or are disabled, or struggling with any task for whatever reason, I am not the most likely person to offer assistance even if it appears you are struggling to accomplish something. If you are a new neighbor, I am unlikely to be the friendly person to bring you a freshly baked pie. And I am unlikely to standout as a particularly wonderful customer, I certainly will not leave an overly generous tip, and it is unlikely that I will make pleasant conversation if I do not have to.
It isn’t that I don’t care, it just isn’t my instinct. In terms of offering assistance, I believe my hesitation stems from my own stubbornness. If I am struggling with something, I usually do not welcome help because I want to do it on my own, however inefficient or painful that may be. Historically it has not occurred to me that others are different. I avoid small talk because I am shy, and selfishly I am probably having a vibrant conversation in my own head not even recognizing that I could be striking up a conversation. I think my lack of overwhelming kindness to neighbors is also rooted in shyness. As for tipping, that is my own stinginess, or maybe my overall dislike of tipping, but I promise you will get something, and hopefully it will not be noticeably small, just also not noticeably big.
As I age, I am recognizing that while I am stubborn, not everyone is. In the instances when I have thought to offer a hand, every time, my assistance has either been welcomed, or very politely declined. I am also recognizing that just because it isn’t easy to reach out to a neighbor, or strike up a conversation with a stranger, it is no excuse not to do it. Reaching out will enrich my life, and maybe the lives of others. I can learn the skill of conversation, I can learn to reach out and show that I care by making eye contact, asking good questions, and listening fully.
So, in October, I wanted to push that learning curve and to make a conscious effort of being really kind to others.
Whether I was successful or not is a difficult thing to judge. Sometimes my effort involved just a genuine hello to a stranger. I have no way to know if that meant anything to them or not. But I do no that I made more an effort in my own actions. I sincerely complimented other people during this month in ways that I might have shied away from had it not been the month’s task. There were other days when I thought of something but didn’t do it, and still days where I couldn’t even come up with a good idea for kindness. I kept a journal of my kindness acts each day, and one day’s entry was simply “didn’t kill air BnB dog.” The farm dog where we were staying on vacation kept following me when I tried to run, so I had to return back to the property. In my own self-centered world, this action – rather than continuing on my merry way because it was MY run – fit in as my kind act; this is what I’m up against, but at least this month was an improvement.
Awhile back, and I forget where or from whom, but someone said that they had roommates who described them as just there – I think there was a better term but cannot recall it – but the idea was that this person was easy to live with in the sense that they never made a mess they didn’t clean up, or too much noise at bad times. But they also didn’t add anything. No special dinners made for the group, didn’t clean up after others, etc. I think this is kind of like me. I clean up. I care. But I’m not the life of the party, and I’m unlikely to offer much spontaneity or fun. I’m not sure anyone would describe me as mean. But I’m not very memorable either. My hope is to find a nice balance as I continue to age; to reach out more, but I know I will also remain true to myself, living much of my life in my own head.
One thing I love about coaching is that I feel comfortable with being kind. It is my job, and I no longer have hesitation or shyness about making a small gesture. I love nothing more than becoming an expert in a client and pouring my heart into our work together. Sometimes I bring gifts to our sessions, or something on a birthday. Maybe, in part, this is why the profession feels like a great fit for me.