08 June 2016

Be humble and kind

Recently, I experienced a lengthy airport delay; it would be at least an 8-hour wait for my flight home to Boise, Idaho. So, I decided to grab some lunch in an airport restaurant and finish a bit of work. I was seated near the receptionist who was engaged in conversation with my waiter. I tried not to eavesdrop, but couldn’t help overhearing their exchange.

The waiter was lamenting the lack of gratuity he received from a party of eight patrons who had required a good deal of his time and attention. He had worked very hard to make their experience a positive one, given the busyness of the airport and their rush to catch a flight, but the gratuity they gave him was only about 5 percent of the bill. Then he added, “And to top it all off, my relief is late again. He is consistently 40 minutes late for his shift. It typically wouldn’t bother me, but I have another job to get to, and when he’s late I begin to get very nervous. I need both jobs to take care of my family.”

When the receptionist suggested that the waiter share his concerns with the manager, he responded: “No way, I can’t lose this job! I just need to deal with it.” At that point, the receptionist observed: “You know what, I’ve worked here a long time and I have a very good relationship with the manager. How about I mention it to him? I won’t let him know that the matter came from you.” Showing obvious relief, the waiter responded, “How very kind of you. That would be great. Thank you.” Given his unhappy experience with the previous guests, I made sure to leave a sizable tip.

A simple act of kindness
That simple act of kindness from the receptionist touched me. I hope that reaching out and offering a thoughtful gesture or act of kindness will never go out of style. Yet, so often, we fail to pause and acknowledge others amidst the hectic, fast-paced flurry of our lives.

Listen to this YouTube video of Tim McGraw singing “Humble and kind.” and really pay attention to the lyrics and images. He reminds us, “Hold the door, say please, say thank you. Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie. … When you get where you’re goin’, don’t forget, turn back around, help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind.” Tim’s goal is to spread the message of kindness and inspire others to do the same.

The Clarks on graduation day.
Make it a habit and a lifestyle
Last month, our youngest daughter graduated from the University of Idaho with her undergraduate degree. Brigadier General Erik C. Peterson, a highly decorated and distinguished commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, delivered the commencement address. His military awards and decorations are many and impressive, and he, too, is a graduate of the University of Idaho. As a parent of one of the graduates, I found Gen. Peterson’s speech compelling, passionate, powerful, and deeply relevant to the ideals of service, advocacy, and civility. He challenged us to share our skills, talents, energy, and gifts to benefit others and contribute to the common good. He suggested we make service a habit and a lifestyle, not just a single act, and he strongly encouraged us to “endeavor to be kind.”

Quoting Albert Schweitzer, he stated, “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” He further noted that, along his 30-year military journey, he has witnessed firsthand the very best and the very worst of humanity. He observed: “Nothing has had a more profound, sustained, positive impact on me than the occasional, conspicuous act of kindness of my fellow man, and the simple pleasure and reward of being able to extend the same. Kindness and civility with its inherent power are all too often overlooked. … Simple acts of kindness not only serve to counter the burdens and travails of the recipient, but are also known to improve the well-being of the giver. The impact of a [genuine act of kindness] can be profound, lasting, and positively viral.”

Pups in a truck. Four of our eight rescue pets.
This powerful, passionate, and brilliant speech touched me deeply. It was a rally cry to continue the path I am on—to be an avid advocate for civility, respect, and yes, kindness. And not only that, but to raise awareness and challenge myself and others to become “Civility Champions” dedicated to improving the lives of individuals, teams, organizations, and yes, maybe even society.

Kindness is a choice
Mary Wortley Montagu reminds us, “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” Think about ways you touch the lives of others. Perhaps you have rescued a pet, or, as in our family’s case, multiple pets. Maybe you hold the elevator for someone dashing to catch it, or pack an extra lunch for your child to share with a less fortunate friend or classmate. Maybe when others are gossiping about someone else, you are the first to jump in and speak well of that individual. Perhaps you’ve sent a letter to a relative or former teacher letting them know the positive impact they’ve had on your life.

Compliment others. Smile and greet them. At the bank or grocery store, offer your place in line to someone with fewer items or who seems to be in a hurry—or do it just because. If you see litter, pick it up and throw it away. Bring your partner coffee in bed. Include others in conversation, especially those who tend to be shy or quiet. At the Starbucks drive-thru, pay for the order of the person behind you.

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure many of you have countless ways to say thank you or extend a kind gesture to another. As Gen. Peterson and Tim McGraw remind us, endeavor to be humble and kind. It really can make a difference in the lives of others. Maybe even our own.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.