This summer I had the ... joy ... of taking the kids to see my in-laws by myself. We had taken a family trip over the spring and I decided they were old enough and I was brave enough to take them on a plane trip by myself. So, off to Texas we went. Traveling with two young kids is no small feat, but we managed. In the process, I had an experience that made me start thinking about kindness and it’s role in our day to day lives.
It was a seemingly insignificant moment ... a moment most people probably wouldn’t have thought twice about. It occurred while waiting in line for the bathroom with both kids and a bunch of carry-on luggage in tow. The lady in front of us was up next so I was beginning to scout out what stalls would be available so I could send Zoe into one and then find one for Myla and myself.
“Do you want to go ahead?”
The lady was looking straight at me, however, I was so focused on following procedure it took me a moment to realize she was even talking to me. Then I realized the open stall she was motioning towards was the large one that would easily fit me and the girls together.
“Oh, thank you so much!” Was the response ... because it was a rather simple situation and didn’t really warrant much more than that and a smile. But as I scooted my littles into the stall, I felt the enormity of how much this one little gesture helped us out (and really everyone in line as we were now only using one stall instead of two). Such a simple moment, but it really made that one little piece of our long journey so much more bearable.
So, it got me thinking about how many little acts of kindness we could do and DO do sometimes that cost us almost nothing ... that we may not even quite be aware of, but could mean the world to someone else in that moment.
Our own Jaime’s dear husband, Travis, demonstrated a great example of this. The two of them were sitting at a favorite local coffee shop when Travis noticed an elderly man with a walker waiting to cross the street. The man had been waiting through several light changes because he hadn’t pushed the crosswalk button. Travis went outside, pushed the button and waved the man over. The man, who happened to be coming to the coffee shop, thanked Travis on his way in for helping him out. Now, it took Travis two things to be part of this interaction. The first is the time and effort to get up and walk out to push the button. Or, if you’d rather, the initiative to help when help was needed. The second, but certainly no lesser, was the AWARENESS of the needs of this man. Because Travis was Paying Attention, he was able to act on the need for help. Certainly, both awareness and initiative are important. Both were required for help to be given, but it was the AWARENESS that allowed for the interaction to even take place.
Both the woman in the restroom and Travis were Paying Attention. And that resulted in the ability to help a stranger.
I want to help. As much as possible. In any way possible. But let me tell you, I kinda stink at Paying Attention. I’m not exactly known for my skills in observation or quick thinking. I’m the kind who thinks about a situation hours a later and THEN has the light bulb moment of how I could have changed my actions to try to better someone’s day. Having a smartphone (I’ll touch back on this in a moment, don’t worry) and two kids has not exactly helped me in this department. But I am trying. I’m Paying Attention to how OTHERS Pay Attention. I’m Paying Attention when I’m at a party and I see other parents helping the hosts out. I’m Paying Attention when someone lets another person go in front of them at the grocery store because they have a full cart and the other person only has a few things. I’m Paying Attention when my husband starts bagging the groceries himself because there’s no one bagging and ... well, because he can.
Yes, I’m sorry to say that until a few years ago, I was one of those people who would just stand there while the checker was ringing up the groceries and there was no bagger ... just watching as the groceries started piling up at the end. Yep, that was me. And you know what? It’s simply because I wasn’t Paying Attention. The first time I saw my husband jump in and start bagging himself, I did a mental face palm. All these years, I could have been bagging myself and instead I had made the line longer due to my inaction. I guess subconsciously I just thought there was some unspoken rule that you just couldn’t do it yourself. And you know, what? I bet other people were bagging their own groceries around me all the time, but it wasn’t until I was awake and Paying Attention that I took notice. Now I bag my own groceries whenever I can and I’ve had more than one checker thank me for helping out.
Now, some might call this simple manners or lack thereof. In fact, a friend posted about her frustration at the grocery store when someone WASN’T bagging their own groceries, thus holding up the line. And I get it. To her, that was so obvious ... probably something she had been doing forever and couldn’t understand how unobservant this person was. But, in defense of the person just standing there, they very likely were like me ... oblivious. And here’s the thing ... we’ve become more and more oblivious. We are so disconnected ... probably due in no small part to technology and burying our heads in our phones whenever possible. I don’t care how good your manners are, it’s hard to help someone out when you’re so absorbed in what’s happening in the cloud that you could almost walk into a light pole and not even know it.
How are you going to notice the older lady trying to use her chip card for the first time? (Backwards ... admit it, you’ve done it, too.) How are you going to notice the lady at Starbucks trying to settle two rambunctious kids while waiting for the drinks to come up? How are you going to be able to notice them and bring their drinks to their table if your nose is buried in your phone? How are you going to notice the short woman in the store staring at the top shelf where the lasagna noodles are kept ... staring like she’s analyzing if it’s a simple jump-grab or if the one-foot-on-the-shelf launch is needed? How are you (being well over six feet yourself) going to be able to offer to get that box of lasagna for her? (Or six boxes ... so she doesn’t have to get more for awhile ... OK, yes, the short woman is me.) How are you going to help if all you’re thinking about is: "Where are the flippin’ raisins?!"
Here’s the best part ... it costs NOTHING. Nothing but a little effort on your part and maybe a little time, depending on the situation. Paying Attention costs NOTHING. It’s a way each and every one of us can show kindness regardless of financial status. So challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to put the phone down, especially while you’re out and about. Challenge yourself to look for ways to help others and Pay Attention to how other people are already helping others. Look if I, the girl who used to be called Space Cadet in high school, can make some changes in becoming more observant, I promise you can too. Pay It Forward by Paying Attention. Just another way to Buzz a little Love.