I’m always looking to people to learn about myself and the way I want to show up in this world. I constantly question “is who I am being in this moment reflective of the greatest person that lies inside?” A lot of times I’m off base and some shifts in attitude or perception are called for; and sometimes I’m spot on and am respond with so much loving kindness that I can’t help but feel internal love radiating inside.
Lately, I’ve been trying to allow the hurtful and challenging people I encounter to teach me about kindness, to show me what it means it means to be compassionate, and to notice all the ways in which I begin to contract and feel when I experience difficult interactions. I look to strangers as models of gentleness, steadiness, and strength. I look to friends and acquaintances to teach me about bravery and the willingness to take risks. I look to ordinary people to teach me about success and making decisions based on purpose, rather than fear.
My greatest teacher most recently has been the barista at my favorite local coffee shop. After a particularly defeating day last week, I drove tiredly and with a sense of frustration to meet my husband to do more work. When it was my turn next in line, the barista, in a typical customer service fashion, asked me how my day was. “Rough,” I said. And because we are conditioned by so many of these interactions, I wasn’t expecting anything more than a simple, fairly generic response. I was taken aback when the barista stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eyes, and offered the most sincere sense of compassion. He asked me about my day and listened with attentiveness; he not only made it a point to personally deliver my meal and make an extra beautiful design from the froth of my coffee, but checked in with me later that night before he left his shift. The gestures were simple, but intentionally kind. What I know for sure is that the sincerity of his actions changed the outcome of my day. The barista’s presence and willingness to port forth extra effort gently switched my perspective; his actions a reminder that the way we show up in our lives matters to the people we encounter. He reminded me how much I value support, community, and gentle compassion and so I was able to move through the rest of the day more softly, more full.
I’m still thinking about his kindness and all of the things he didn’t have to do but chose to anyways. Here’s what I know:
- You have the power to change someone’s behaviors, feelings, and day, simply by the way you show up. We can move through our days in automated ways- prioritizing our needs and wants over those we are surrounded by- or we can choose to be present in the experiences and potential suffering that other people encounter and make an offering of our hearts.
- We can notice but it’s most powerful to act. We are in an age of sharing posts, images, and well wishes on social media versus taking intentional action to contribute to the alleviation of a problem. While education and acknowledgement of and about local, national, and international issues are crucial, we must be intentional about being the drivers of change.
- There are so many possible beautiful interactions that could take place in this world. The person standing in front of you could turn out to be one of your greatest friends or deepest supporters- if only we would pause and allow ourselves the opportunity to connect to one another’s hearts.
- Paying attention to the way people are feeling around you can make all the difference. And if their cup is empty, perhaps offer some of your love to fill it up.
- Be kind. Talk to someone you don’t know. Offer love.