The other day I was in a doctor's office waiting to check in. The woman in front of me was elderly and was sharing with the secretary many of her ailments. At the end she shared that she just had a scan and was happy it wasn't cancer.
I thought how fortunate she was to receive that diagnosis. I unfortunately don't have that luxury to utter those words too.
She sat down.
I checked in.
Then on my way to my seat I smiled at her.
What came next was unexpected as she huffed, "What are you smiling at?" in my direction.
Now before you judge this woman, pause for a minute to listen to what came next...
Having heard this woman complain about her ailments and then be so quick to dismiss a kind gesture, I knew this woman needed someone to listen to her, not someone to judge her. I asked if she was okay if I sat next to her. Once again she grumbled her response saying, "If you want to."
Many of you may think I am crazy for giving this woman my time and attention, especially after how she treated me. Yet, what I learned as a teacher was that the students who were most challenging needed love, not judgement. Often when I gave them an open ear and my time they would let me in behind the mask they wore.
I am finding the same is true with adults.
So I sat and listened to her story, every statement was negative and it was as though she thought the world was against her. You can see how many people from the outside in would say she was a grumpy old woman. Yet, by listening to her I had the chance to meet her from the inside out and see she was a woman, a widow, a mother, she had many ailments and they were challenging her in mind, body and spirit. For those minutes I sat with her, I listened and I got to step out of myself and my situation and be there for her.
I am sure many people may think I had every right to be annoyed with this woman and could have just brushed her off...yet that is what is happening too much in society. We may think our issues or stories are more significant than others and therefore we walk around focused on ourselves rather than taking the opportunities that arise to step out of ourselves and practice being present and kind to others.
I know for me, engaging with this woman and meeting her behind her shell where her truth resides broadened my heart that day. She has been in my thoughts and prayers since. Being able to wish her well - even if she never knows it, is a gift I carry in my heart daily.
I share this story in hopes the next time you meet a grumpy old person or someone with a hardened shell that you too...
Pause. Breathe. Pray.
And choose to be kind. Kindness bridges hearts and fuels the soul. It may not be the easier choice, but it will be the worthwhile one.
Be well...and kind,
P.S. I received a roll of these stickers from a friend and am having fun handing them out leisurely to others. I give two stickers, one for the person I am giving it to and one for them to pass along to someone. If you would like to learn more about them, visit https://bensbells.org/shop/products and share kindness:-)
"Be kind and compassionate to one another..." - Ephesians 4:32