“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I often find myself thinking about this quote from Plato.
When I am out in the community and pass someone in the grocery store – this quote encourages me to greet that person with a smile.
When I am out for a run, this quote motivates me to wave at drivers in passing cars.
When I am walking in the high school hallways or interacting with a student in my classroom, this quote makes me take a pause, ask how they are doing, and offer some words of encouragement.
Recently, this saying has resonated with me even more.
I think we can all agree things haven’t been as easy coming out of the Pandemic Era as we thought they would be.
Many of us have scars (visible and unseen) from a variety of issues we have been dealing with.
Many of us have fractured relationships that need to be forgiven if they are to be fixed or let go if they are to be put on the shelf and stored as a memory.
Many of us have worries that keep us up at night and uncertainties that can’t find their way to sleep.
Many of us have found a way to smile and reach for the sunshine despite these hardships – but that’s also pretty exhausting.
Despite our efforts, our loved ones sometimes see the cracks, and, if we are lucky, ask if we are doing ok.
“I’ll be alright,” we often reply, hoping we can avoid adding our troubles to the list of the person who is asking us.
Deep down, we hope our words ring true – that we will, in fact, be “alright”.
I’ll admit that the last few weeks haven’t been easy or full of sunshine.
But through those clouds, I have tried to put on a happy face as much as possible.
And I have been so thankful for the people who have treated me kindly, even when they didn’t know how badly I needed it.
It’s true – you never know how much a small ounce of kindness can truly change someone’s day.
On Sunday evening, after a snowed-in weekend with bitter cold temps and icy streets, I was feeling especially exhausted from what the recent weeks have dealt me.
Throwing all home-cooked dinner ideas out the window, I did what any weary human would do – I called for pizza.
Not just any pizza – Frank’s Pizza.
I went to pick it up at the Wayne Heights location, one our family frequents quite often.
Like many evenings, there was a line of people waiting to pick up and also place orders.
In a haze, I took my place and waited. I wasn’t in a hurry – in fact, it was kind of nice to just stand there, even though that brought some reflection of all that I have been dealing with lately.
Out of nowhere, a group of three men told me to go ahead of them – they were placing a large order (which they said later they often do at Frank’s on a Sunday evening) and told me to take my turn before them.
Even when I told them I was fine to wait, they insisted I go ahead – and then talked to me for a few minutes, wishing me safe travels when I headed out the door.
Sure, this doesn’t seem like much – but it was.
This small act of kindness literally brought me to tears by the time I got to my car.
Those men had no idea that I was having a tough day – but their gesture delivered a ray of sunshine.
This evening, when I waited in CVS for some prescriptions, I couldn’t help but notice the two pharmacy employees who were trying to meet the needs of people in the drive-thru, customers waiting in the store, callers phoning in about orders, and the ever-incessant robot man who nags them about every other person vying for their attention.
I wasn’t in a hurry – so the 30-minute wait didn’t bother me.
Instead, I talked to a man who was also waiting – I learned that he served in the Army during Desert Storm and now works for the government. He will retire in about two years. I thanked him for his service and he smiled.
As the pharmacy employee filled my order and rang me out, I asked her if she was doing ok.
“It’s been busy,” she said with a shrug, an exhausted shrug that illustrated that the Army veteran’s observation that the pharmacy has been understaffed for at least a year was accurate.
As I was leaving the store, I thought about the kind gesture those men at Franks did on Sunday evening.
How could I do something for these CVS employees to thank them for their hard work?
I headed to Starbucks with one mission – to make those two women in the CVS pharmacy smile.
Less than 10 minutes later, I returned and waited in the drive-thru, armed with the universal token of appreciation – two warm chocolate chip cookies.
As the CVS employee took the cookies, she said, “You didn’t have to do that.”
No, but hopefully that small token of kindness helped her get through the last hour of her shift and let her know we are all in this together.
Yes, if each one of us took the time to do a small act of kindness each day, this Post Pandemic World would be a brighter place.