A well-to-do executive passed an old woman selling pretzels on the street on his way to his office. Every day he would rush by and toss a quarter in her cup, but never take a pretzel. He did so for several years; finally, one day he put down his quarter, and the woman took him by the arm and looked at him. He looked at her and said, “You probably want to know why every day I leave twenty-five cents in the cup and never take a pretzel.” And she said, “No, I just want to tell you that pretzels are thirty-five cents now.” As funny as this is, the truth is that we are all guilty of taking people for granted. Learning to be kind to people every day in every way is important and essential to living a principled life.
Kindness is the quality of being considerate to others. We are not born with a kind disposition. It is not something natural to human nature. If there is any proclivity—it is toward unkindness. We have to learn to be kind. We learn to pass that kindness along to others with our words and even facial expressions. Kindness considers another person’s needs and tries to meet them.
If children see mom and dad treat each other with respect and kindness, they imitate those same behaviors. Kindness is something that you have to work at. You smile, you wave, you speak, you hold the door for someone, and the person responds back with kindness.
Kindness flows from gratitude. One thing that makes such a difference in life is whether we cultivate gratitude in our hearts. It makes us different in a better way. It changes our outlook on life and helps us embrace difficult things with an uncommon attitude. Gratitude has a good memory, and it considers where we came from and the pit we had fallen into—a pit so deep we could not crawl out of it by ourselves. Ingratitude erases the memory of what God has done for us. Spiritual amnesia distorts the past and misrepresents the future, and worst of all, it makes us ugly. We forget where we came from, who we are, and where we are going.
Kindness is really taking charge of our attitude and making a commitment not to be moody. If we are moody, we are letting our emotions lead us around with a ring in our nose. Kindness is being kind to everyone with no exceptions. It means we teach our kids to be kind to other kids even though they do not want to play with them. Rudeness comes from selfishness, and kindness suffers when we are stingy, when we are unforgiving, when we are petty and mean spirited, when we ignore and exaggerate our own importance, and when we keep to our little group and ostracize others. All of this starts when we are children, but we keep doing it even as adults.
Kindness is one of the most powerful things that any of us can do. It does not require money, education, or credentials. I can remember the kindness of my mother and father and of my favorite teachers. Sometimes it is just a smile or an encouraging comment. Kindness does something good for us, and its effect is immediate. Phrases like: “It’s a pleasure!” “Thank you!” “Nice to meet you!” “How can I help you?” “Thank you for being so patient” “Keep up the good work” are like the spring rain falling on dry ground.