I recently had the displeasure of being on the receiving end of an act of personal rudeness and disrespect that ranks pretty high in my entire life’s experiences. This was an episode of the most extreme act of ignorance that caught me so off guard, I almost let my tongue and actions lash out in an unbridled reaction.
While I will forego the intimate details of the encounter, it was my understanding that this particular man was extremely wealthy and very well known in the world of finance and business. However to me, he is and was just simply a man and nothing more, but as is with all people, worthy of my respect and kindness.
After confirming his identity, not half a sentence left my mouth before he looked at me, his eyes meeting mine, and I could see and palpably “feel” his disdain and contempt for me and the utter audacity he felt toward me that I speak to him and actually give a man of his stature a directive, ANY directive. Believe me, after being a police officer for 25 years, I knew exactly what that facial expression looks like and meant. Then, without saying a word, while I was in mid sentence, he simply turned his head and walked away from me, dismissing and brushing me off like I was no more than a common housefly that was buzzing around his face. I looked over at another person sitting beside me, his eyes as wide as saucers and mouth hanging open. He saw it too. I asked him if he truly witnessed what just happened and he replied, “yes, I did, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a display as rude and disrespectful as that”.
The anger rose in me and I walked to find this man and explain to him the finer points of kindness and respect without any thoughts of the personal ramifications. After finding him a few minutes later, I got about 10 feet away from him when that little Voice inside my spirit said, “Don’t do it, you’re better than that”. I knew exactly Who was speaking to me.
As I stood there looking at him, I immediately felt sorry for this man and the life he must live. I also felt sorry for his family, those who work for and with him and any others who come in contact with him in his daily life. I later thought (while this incident occurred during the Christmas season), that this man’s ultimate funeral ceremony might look like Ebenezer Scrooge’s, with only the cemetery caretakers in attendance.
The simple act of kindness is one of the most powerful things we as human beings can do for another person. It costs nothing, depletes nothing, can take almost no time to do, but can often dramatically change the lives of others for the better. It feels good to the person giving it and to the person(s) receiving it, feels just as wonderful. It is one of the ways we as a civilized society interact with one another that creates a bond. This is true whether or not you’ll ever see that person again or if it is a loved one with whom you are intimately connected.
Kindness can be manifested in the simplest of ways…holding a door open for someone, smiling and saying hello to a stranger, lending a helping hand to an elder trying to carry packages in a parking lot, letting someone in line in a store or while driving on a highway, giving money or clothing to a homeless person, volunteering or even stooping down to say a kind word to a small child. These actions can make an immense difference in someone’s life.
Kindness can also take the form of our capacity to listen. To truly stop and actively listen to someone who is speaking about their life’s condition and our ability to hear it, understand it, empathize with it and offer comfort in our attention to them as a humble and reverent reaction.
Author and professor Leo Buscaglia once said, “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”.
I wonder what happened to this man in his life that made him behave like this and who may have “taught” him to treat others with such disrespect and disdain. This was learned behavior, maybe passed down to him from parents or others who had an impact on his life and who may have helped create this man’s character as it is and which made him act in this horrendous and repulsive manner. I guess I’ll never know.
What I do know is that the personal interaction with this man, while repugnant, did to and for me was to further cement my desire to be a much more kind and benevolent person. One who will hopefully be remembered as someone who lived his life simply as a nice, kind and giving man. I love it when life’s lessons like these come along. They are ones that may not happen too often, but when they do, are etched in one’s spirit and soul.
And, for this, I sincerely thank this man.