Kindness Is Never Wasted

Something is afoot. I received an email from my doctor’s office advising all patients that a policy of zero tolerance was in place regarding rude, abusive, and violent behaviour of patients towards office staff and medical practitioners. The language in the email was specific and left no room for misunderstanding. I was shocked and confused. Behaviour of this sort must have become common rather than the exception to warrant this preventative measure. Then I noticed similar printed signs up in many businesses. Have we all gone mad?

It seems strange to me that we need to be reminded this type of behaviour is unacceptable. When exactly did we decide we have the right to react in such a manner when things don’t go our way? I blame Trump, but then I blame him for everything – Covid, Hurricane Fiona, the blister on my heel, my aching hip, the debris in my eavestrough. When I stub my toe, I wave my fist at his imagined fake-tanned face. It makes me feel better and I end up laughing at my own absurdity. Maybe that’s what’s happening out in the real world – people are shouting and threatening others to make themselves feel better. Of course, that doesn’t work, nor does it deem such actions acceptable, but perhaps those with a lean supply of kindness have used up what little inventory they had.

One of my daughters works at a veterinary clinic and they have installed video surveillance equipment in the reception area to reduce aggressive rude behaviour of clients toward staff. The pets are well behaved. The same can’t be said of the humans. Signs with warnings are clearly posted that action will be taken. Previous to this tactic, there was an occurrence almost every day and sometimes more often, with persons hurling insults and cursing and threatening staff. What? It makes me scratch my head.

I have bumped up against unkindness. We all have. I try to speak up to a rude person when I can. I’ve been told by the aggressor it is none of my business, but that could be said about most things. In those situations, it is exactly our business when we see someone abusing another. I was in a grocery store and noticed the young woman behind the checkout had a tag on her uniform that said she was in training. She was pleasant and soft-spoken. The customer ahead of me instructed her to use some points she had on her credit card. The young woman nodded and followed the necessary protocol but somewhere in the mix the points weren’t used. Apparently, the world was coming to an end. The customer yelled and slammed her groceries and the young woman wilted. I placed my hand on the counter in front of the customer who was twice my size and slowly said, “We don’t need to treat people like this.” She spun around and fire was coming out of her eyes, but she was speechless. She stuffed her groceries into her cart and waited at the end of the counter probably preparing a counterattack or to use her cane on me. I decided I could outrun her if necessary. The young employee smiled at me, her face apologetic. “It’s my first day,” she said. I remember first days. “First days are never easy,” I said.

In contrast, the next day I was in a store wandering around looking for freezer bags and I couldn’t find them. A salesclerk saw my look of confusion and hurried over to help. “I think they’re in the freezer section,” she said. “Who knew,” I said, and laughed. On my way out the woman who offered help called out to me. “Was I right?” she asked. I threw my arms over my head and used my best ta-da. We both laughed heartily. I had a bounce in my step and a smile on my face when I left the store.

I am in BC on grandson duty. We were crossing the street on a cross walk on our morning walk to school. We hurried across so as not to keep the driver waiting. Linden waved to the driver and shouted a thank you. When we got to the other side, I gave Linden a hug. I reminded him the driver was obligated to stop for us, but that his gesture of thoughtfulness had the real possibility of making that man’s day better. “That is how we change the world, Linden,” I said, giving him a high five. “I know, Grandma,” he said with a confident smile. Linden already knows his wave and gesture of kindness has the power to create a smile where there might have been sorrow or stress. He’s got it all figured out. He already knows kindness is free to give away and priceless to receive.

wendistewart@live.ca