number of times that people had asked me why I was mad at them. Huh? I wasn’t mad, just thinking. Eventually, I caught my look in a mirror and realized that my visage can have a quite intense look while I’m pondering something; but, since I did that thinking while staring with my eyes open, it could appear like I was staring them down! So, that might be when I first realized that my social skills needed some work! I’ve often blamed my struggles in this area on my New Jersey upbringing, but since meeting other folks in our church from New Jersey, I must instead take full ownership of those struggles.
We didn’t all grow up to recognize what an important skill kindness is. I’m working on teaching myself to make kindness so automatic that I don’t need to actively think it through first. (Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?)
Was it Joe Friday who said, “The facts, ma’am; just the facts?” Well, that’s me. [sigh] I want to get straight to the point as quickly and efficiently as possible. In my quest of teaching this old dog, I’m starting with simple correspondence. I try to first type an email that gets to the meat of the topic. Then, I’ll pause, reread, and then add in some chit-chat. How can this be so hard for me? I’ll overhear Bonnie in the office who always starts a conversation with asking how they’re doing, pauses and listens carefully to their response, then perhaps continues in that line for awhile before ever getting down to the business at hand—amazing to me! She is so kind—just naturally! I want to be like that! I’m taking baby steps in this quest.
Before answering the phone at work or at home, I try to pause, take a breath, and then have my voice tell the caller that I’m glad they called. It not only helps the person who calls to feel more at ease, but also helps me to truly feel that way and engage directly with them. I’m also trying to be more intentional in recognizing other’s emotional states, setting aside what I might be working on, and inquiring about their needs.
It might be human nature for us to see problems in others before we notice it in ourselves…or is that just me? Our mailman used to be so grouchy and unpleasant that I made it my challenge to turn his day around and put a smile on his face. I began with slowing him down just a bit, causing him to say more than a grunt, and sending him on his way with a friendly smile and greeting. Then, I progressed to inquiring how he was doing with handling the weather of the day. I always made it a point to thank him sincerely for doing his work, even under trying circumstances. Eventually, he opened-up and mentioned that he was regularly putting in ten- to twelve-hour days! That was when I really started interacting with him on a personal level. We began joking with each other, sharing some laughs and struggles, candy and bottled water. In the process of turning this once-grouchy mailman around, I realized that my intentional kindness was becoming more innate and natural for me. Hm, who was the real target of this challenge—the mailman or me…?
Proverbs has some wise words for daily life, including this passage:
The lesson of our mailman truly refreshed me. I’ll continue on this quest of becoming naturally kind, and I think my pathway is through acts of kindness towards others. I pray for its success!
Your friend in Christ,
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.