When you take a minute to look for it you will see kindness in many forms that you probably would not have recognized as a kindness. We might recognize them as good things but not necessarily kindness extended to us.
I recently made a trip to Toronto for a special event. I went alone and I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal since I was only staying overnight. To my surprise I found that traveling without K.B. was a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. I felt very alone and it was uncomfortable to be alone in such a big city. I’m not sure why I would feel that way because in a city of over two million people it wouldn’t be unusual for a person to walk down the street alone or eat a meal alone. But there I was and it did feel very uncomfortable.
I arrived in Toronto around noon and the event that I had come for started at 7:00 PM so I decided to head to the hotel and get settled in. As I hadn’t eaten yet, by the time I got checked in to the hotel my stomach was growling at me fiercely. I decided to venture out to find a spot to eat and I stumbled upon a Jazz and Blues club called The Rex. Well, I do enjoy blues and I don’t mind listening to jazz so I thought this would be as good a place as any. When I got into the pub there was a lone guitar player sitting on a stage playing some incredible jazz. There were quite a few people in the bar but when this artist finished a song there was an awkward silence and it occurred to me that this guy on the stage was probably feel the same uncomfortable sense that I had. After his next song I decided that talent needed to be appreciated and started clapping. A few others joined in. I continued this after each song and he was very talented so I was certainly not clapping out of pity. After his set was done he came over and introduced himself and sat and chatted for a while. He told me that he appreciated the small applause because most days when he plays he never hears it and it felt good to be appreciated. Showing appreciation for his talent was a kindness that he didn’t usually receive.
But my story doesn’t end there. Eating lunch alone was so uncomfortable that I really didn’t want to go through eating supper alone as well. I decided to skip supper and head to my event a little early. I had no idea what traffic in downtown Toronto would be like but I thought leaving early might not be a bad idea. Luckily I found a cab within seconds and managed to escape the evening traffic. This meant that I arrived at my venue about 45 minutes before the doors opened and that meant standing outside in the rain. This event was a special invitation event and there was what appeared to be a registration tent set up outside the venue but it was roped off and there was no real direction on where or how to register. I found what looked to be a line of people waiting for something so I decided to get in the queue. There was a couple standing in front of me who were clearly much more prepared as they were standing under an umbrella while I was getting soaked. I tapped the gentleman on the shoulder and asked if this line was for registration. He said yes and immediately started a conversation. He introduced himself and his wife and within a very brief period we were all huddled under the umbrella keeping relatively dry and chatting as if we had known each other for quite some time.
They knew I was there alone so they invited me to join them and what could have been another uncomfortably solitary experience turned into a fun filled evening where I made some new friends. When I got back to my hotel that night it occurred to me that when my new friend, Jan, made the simple gesture of extending his hand and introducing himself it was a kindness that I hadn’t considered and for that matter nor did he. To him it was just being polite and friendly but considering that I was feeling alone and uncomfortable it was a kindness that made me feel at ease.
If we just live our lives aware of the people around us and acknowledge them and treat them with respect we may be giving them a kindness without even knowing it. I thought about how many times I may have said hello to a random person on the street (I grew up in a small town so saying hello to people on the street just became a habit) or held a door for someone or was polite in some way. To me it may have seemed like just the proper thing to do but to the other person it may have been a kindness that they weren’t expecting. This also made me think about the times when I have had a bad day and I was so self absorbed that maybe I forgot to be polite. These time I may have unknowingly made somebody else’s day just a little worse. I’m a little bit more aware of those days now because I understand how much an unexpected kindness can mean to someone else and how an unintentional un-kindness can impact someone else just as much in a negative way.