Kill them with Kindness
It feels as if the world we know is entering a period of deep darkness. It’s not the new President Elect of the United States that I’m talking about, but rather the overall chaos of the world. We may be living in one of history’s most peaceful periods but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Our friends, families and coworkers are not only under scrutiny because of their beliefs, who they love and their infirmities, they are under attack. People around the globe are facing persecution and exile from the homelands they love, as well as terrorism and death from the very governments that are supposed to protect them.
I worry for the world that my children are growing up in, but I also have a great deal of hope. My children don’t see the differences in others as much as my generation did. Like me, they want to make the world a more inclusive place for everyone, even if that means stepping out of their comfort zone and refusing to stay silent in the face of evil.
Change starts at home, beginning with little steps to make a difference in people’s lives, not just by talking about it but by actually doing something concrete. A few months ago I made a conscious decision to make a difference in lives around me in ways that would have a real impact. Last night my commitment was solidified.
As I was exploring downtown Kelowna last evening, I came across a homeless man. He reached out for a bit of human contact in the form of a conversation. Being a woman, walking alone at night is stressful, and can be scary when you are approached by a stranger – especially male, who wants something from you. You have to resist the flight or fight urge and stay calm, hoping that the person with whom you are confronted with won’t harm you in some way. I’m glad that instead of hastily saying “I have no money.”, I stopped and listened.
Our conversation was a brief one and in the end all he asked for was enough money to buy a hot bowl of soup. I never carry cash with me and told him as much before walking away. The dejection on his face stuck with me as I headed back to my car.
As I drove off, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would cost me to get him a bowl of soup. So that is exactly what I did. I found the nearest Safeway, bought some hot soup, some buns and a little cheese, and asked for some cash back so he could get a coffee later. I then drove back to where he had been and cruised around a bit before finding him again.
When I walked up to him, he gave me a little sad smile and looked away. That melancholy look quickly turned to surprise when I stopped in front of him and handed him the bag of food. His eyes teared up as he asked “Seriously?”. I said “Yes, seriously!” as I touched his arm to comfort him. He couldn’t look away from the food for an instant but then he smiled and said, “Cheers!”. I walked away happy, knowing that at least for tonight he would be fed, but also a bit sad that being shown kindness seemed so foreign to him.
Showing kindness when able and receiving kindness from those more fortunate shouldn’t be something that is unusual. After last night I am even more committed to doing what I can to ease the burden carried by others.
There are countless working poor who have to hold two jobs just to make ends meet. Sure, the minimum wage is going up in Alberta but the current rate is just $12.20/hr. If you are a single woman raising a family, you are spending more time working just to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, than you are with your kids. That’s why I’ve committed myself to tip well anywhere and everywhere I can. Adding on 15 or 20 % to my food or coffee total is really no big deal. If everyone did the same it could make a real difference to the take home of those making the minimum wage.
In the same way that I am giving more when I eat out, I’m giving more when I shop for necessities too. It’s easy for me to add on an extra box or two of tampons, toothpaste, soap, or non-perishable food items to my grocery bill. I then take that box of whatever extra I picked up down to the shelter or the food bank and I know that it gets to those people who need it most.
If you really can’t afford to add a few dollars in these ways, volunteering is a great option. Hopes, and prayers are great, but let’s be honest, they don’t make a difference to anyone in a tangible way. If you really want things to change you will find a way that works for your situation. I, for one, am done with accepting status quo and talking big, then brushing things under the rug until the next significant event happens.