I was sitting in Chick-Fil-A with my kids and my Mother-in-law during the busy lunch rush hour one day. It was really busy, really loud, and people were walking everywhere. Maybe I’m mistaken, but usually the vibe during busy times like this are just grumpy hangry people just trying to get some food in their bellies. It’s not always the most pleasant hour of the day, it’s more survival to be fed.
As we were sitting there eating and chatting, there was a Mom that was walking towards a table next to us. She had one child on her hip while holding a diaper bag, two drinks and the giant plastic food indicator to tell the employees which order was hers in her hands, all while she was trying to guide her other little one that was walking in front of her to the table. They reached the table and the little one climbed on the bench. Just as the Mom was setting down her bag… *SPLASH* the baby in her arms knocked the giant styrofoam drink out of her hand and it went EVERYWHERE. It made a flood on the table and started cascading off the table like a waterfall into a giant lake on the floor. It was a huge mess.
As a bystander…that was where I had a moment of choices. Do I just sit there and watch this Mom handle it on her own? Or do I extend a hand? I decided it was better to help than to watch. I quickly jumped to my feet, tapped the Mom on the shoulder and said I was going to find an employee to help get the cleaning stuff.
Watching the whole experience unfold, I remembered what it was like to be in her shoes with littles – You’ve had a long morning with your littles. Probably a long night of not sleeping. You just want a break. So you go out to eat to hopefully help take a bit of the load off. Then of course once you are out, you realize it’s just ten times harder because taking littles on an outing is never a break. Ever. I just felt so much compassion for her at that moment. I’ve been there. In those moments all I want to do is cry at that point and climb into bed and call it a day. So I knew I couldn’t just sit and watch. I needed to help.
While we were waiting for the employees to come help, we grabbed some napkins and realized the quantity of liquid that styrofoam cup miraculously held…it was a hopeless cause to try to wait for the table and chairs and floor to be cleaned. Her kids were restless, she needed her break. So my Mother-in-law helped carry her stuff and we found her a new table to sit at and got her settled in.
Kindness. It takes a split second to make the decision and even the smallest gestures make the biggest impacts.
I don’t know how that Mom’s day was really going…I don’t know how it ended. But that one moment of strangers helping strangers? It made a difference.
After helping the Mom, we sat down to finish our lunch. There was a group of young adults behind me who were serving a church mission. They left their homes and were in a new place to do service for their church. You know their Mama’s at home were just praying for them to be safe and have kindness extended to them during their time away from home. As they were sitting there, I only caught a brief part of the conversation, but a stranger approached them and said, “I got you all gift cards to pay for your next lunch. I hope you have a great day.” Wow. Just wow. I started to tear up just hearing such a sweet gesture of kindness.
Again, I don’t know what kind of day those young adult’s were having. I don’t know how it ended. But to hear a moment of kindness extended for no reason other than to be kind, it moved me. Kindness can happen anywhere. Even during a busy lunch hour rush at Chick-Fil-A.
As I think about kindness…I feel like it’s an action that can be magnified in humanity. When I was in college, I was taking a psychology class and learned that if we are among a group of people, we naturally wait for “the other person” to make the first move when we see someone in need. It’s a real thing. It’s called the Bystander Effect. We all assume that someone else is going to jump in so we don’t impulsively react to help first. I won’t give you a lesson in psychology, but basically depending on how many people are around, the kind of environment you are in, and if you feel like you are not “qualified” to help in certain circumstances, people are less likely to step up when there’s a need. Instead we bury our heads in our phones or look the other direction and pretend we didn’t see anything. We actually have to train our brains to be kind and helpful so it becomes second nature and not second thought.
As I’ve become more aware of the circumstances around me, I’ve been learning that it’s better to err on the side of being too kind rather than not doing anything at all. Because what is the worst that can happen? I make someone smile? Kindness matters. We need more of it.
Actions of kindness don’t have to be large or grand. It can be as simple as making eye contact with a stranger and giving a smile and saying hello. It can be holding the door open for someone. It can be sending that text to someone you’ve been thinking about and saying “Just was thinking about you, how are you doing?” It can be dropping off a cookie and a favorite drink to a Mom who was up all night with their sleepless baby. – That one personally happened to me before and it still brings me happy feelings. The food wasn’t as important as the gesture of someone saying “I know you had a rough night and I just wanted to let you know you are heard and I care.” – It can be wishing someone a Happy Birthday. It can be small talk with a stranger. It can just be listening to a friend vent about how overwhelming everything in their life is at the moment. It can be sending a funny Meme. It can be leaving somewhere cleaner than you found it for the next person. Sending a thank you to your kid’s teacher telling them how much you appreciate them spending so many hours every day with them, teaching them, guiding them, and being a mentor to them. Giving someone a compliment. The list goes on and on.
There are ALWAYS reasons to be kind. There is always room in a day to be kind. Kindness is usually a quiet cause. It doesn’t get a lot of attention. But I think because of how quiet the action of kindness is…that’s why it makes bigger impacts. It’s like a light that spreads. One action of kindness leads to another and then another and then another. It moves people. It changes people. It builds bridges. Find an opportunity to be kind today. Make that choice to not be the bystander, but the one that makes the difference. Build the bridge of kindness. We need more of it.