“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”—Aesop
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”—Scott Adams
Public confession: I love to people watch and eavesdrop in public. I suppose I indulge in this habit for a number of reasons. Perhaps, it is the story-lover in me in search of an interesting “read.” Maybe, my default teacher mode is continually surveying whatever surrounding area I happen to land in order to ensure the safety of all. Then again, it could be a genetic predisposition as my parents and grandparents possessed a knack for taking in the public behaviors of others. Sometimes, I think I am driven to seek examples of goodness in the world in order to prove wrong the media’s focus on the negative side of humanity. Regardless of the reason or motivation, I am guilty as charged.
My husband, John, our daughter, Maddie, and I have often discussed the importance of treating others with kindness, especially in the public arena. John and I spent years as youth working in a wide variety of minimum wage job settings, but even as teachers, we have had eye-opening experiences both positive and negative when interacting with the public.
For example, while working at McDonald’s as a teen, a customer actually tried to physically pull me through the drive-thru window in a fit of rage because his food wasn’t ready. Then, I once encountered was a woman at Lazarus (now Macy’s), who repeatedly berated me and accused me of purposely charging her the wrong price for a sales’ item. (Thank heavens for a nearby manager in both situations.)
Even as a teacher, I have certainly had my fair share of negative/shocking experiences. Thus, it is important to our family that we try to treat those who provide services for us with as much respect and kindness as possible as illustrated by a couple of recent experiences. I am by no means implying we are perfect, but we believe it is a worthwhile goal.
With Madelyn home from college, I have accompanied her to a few public spaces rife with opportunities to people-watch, specifically, doctor office waiting rooms. Summer is the perfect time for updating contact/glasses prescription, visiting doctor and dentist for check ups, and, the big one, removing wisdom teeth. Some of these visits, Maddie can navigate on her own with our family’s insurance card, while other appointments require a parent’s presence for either payment, or in the case of wisdom teeth removal, as a designated driver.
Our eye doctor, Mark Brown, OD, has an office is inside a Wal-Mart, which is always an interesting place to observe people! However, for the sake of this story, I’ll stick to the take-away point: the importance of kindness. Dr. Brown has a gentle way of interacting with his patients, and his staff reflects a similar sense of calm. As we were leaving, Maddie and I were conversing with one of the staff members who began sharing with us the challenges of working with the public. She concluded with a rude interaction she recently experienced with a (now former) patient. In the end, she stated, “If he had only been nice in the first place, we would have worked something out with him.”
One day later, Maddie and I were once again together in another doctor’s office, Mountain State Oral and Facial Surgery, in order to have her wisdom teeth extracted. She was naturally apprehensive and nervous, but the staff exuded kindness beyond measure, as did many of the patients in the waiting room.
Since I was in the waiting room for quite an extended period of time, I visited the restroom a couple of times. On my last visit, I took the last of the toilet paper. As I exited the bathroom, another lady was heading in there. I suggested she wait while I asked the front desk staff for more toilet paper. She seemed astonished that I would tell her, and even thanked me as she momentarily returned to the seat while the staff member graciously took care of the issue.
Later, a surgery staff member made a special trip to find me in the waiting room. This young lady explained that Maddie wanted me to know that everything was fine, and that she was only now going under anesthesia. “She knew you had been out here for quite a while, and she didn’t want you to be worried.”
Not only was I incredibly touched by my daughter’s thoughtfulness, but also by the staff member’s follow-through. After all, she could have assured Maddie she would tell me, but not actually taken time do it with good reason, as they were quite busy on that day.
While continuing to wait, another patient began to inquire about Madelyn.
“How has she adjusted to being old enough to fill-out and sign her own paper work?”
Realizing I was with another people-watcher in order for her to know this about Maddie, I respectfully listened to her experiences when she first turned 18 even though I had planned to use the time to study and read. Ultimately, she ended up sharing information about a medical app called, Care Zone, which I could download on all of our family phones that would store our medical history, medicines, and insurance information. She explained it would not only help Maddie as she independently navigated medical appointments, but it would also help the entire family keep track of important information medical facilities need for routine visits and emergency situations. I was moved by her helpfulness.
Finally, I was called back to the holding room where, Kayla, another assistant, detailed all of the information required to adequately and safely care for Maddie as she recovered from this minor, but significant, outpatient surgery. When Maddie was finally wheeled into me, she was naturally quite silly from the anesthesia, but Kayla remained patient, considerate, and tolerant of Maddie’s antics and repetitious commentary even when I could not keep a straight face.
In the meantime, another staff member, who I believe was named Brittany, came out to talk to me. While I am not able to recall her precise wording, a couple of points stood out. First of all, she explained that all types of people visit their office, especially young adults, but that Maddie was one of most thoughtful and respectful. Secondly, she appreciated Maddie’s curious mind and ability to engage in meaningful conversation. There were other points shared that made my parent-heart smile, but I’ll privately treasure those. The main point is: Brittany didn’t have to leave her workspace to tell me. Likewise, it would have been understandable, given the situation, for Maddie to not have taken time to courteously interact; and yet, they both did.
Like begets like; kindness begets kindness. Even if you never see the effect, to act kindly is always the right choice. Is it always easy? No. Are you going to have days where you forget? Probably. Is it worth practicing as often as possible? Absolutely! Besides, you never know who is watching, and what lessons you are exemplifying.