Thursday, March 10, 2016

Intentional Kindness

I've been thinking over the past week or so as lots of things have been evolving in my life.  I've been thinking a lot lately about intention.  Intention is an interesting idea, because it's so easy to assume that when someone hurts us, or someone does something that negatively affects our lives, that it's done with the intention of seeing that happen.  I've done it.  Everyone has done it.  The reality is that we are all made of flaws and mistakes.  We're all going to do something at some point that someone misinterprets or that somehow hurts someone and they will assume we intended for that to happen.  That causes a lot of discomfort in friendships or relationships or whatever.  Sometimes, it can end them all together.

There have been a few things that have come to light lately that make me question the intentions of other people.  Betrayal by a friend has me questioning whether they intended for the damage that the betrayal left in its wake to happen, or if that was just a side effect of the things they said.  I'm honestly not sure what the intention was, or what the motivation was for them to do what they did, but it's hard to address the situation because the hurt part of me says "Why did you want to hurt me?" while the rational part of me says I don't know that this person wanted to hurt me.  It makes things difficult, I guess, to have two parts of at odds over what to do.

Though all of this, though, I've been thinking about what I feel is missing a lot of the time in a lot of people's lives.  In the end, I think everyone could just use a lot more kindness.  I know I could.  I feel like I've been left out to dry by a lot of people I invested in, and that I've been made to feel like the person I am is just too much work for other people to be going on with.  And that's hard.  But, if I flip that around and ask myself whether those people feel that way because everything else in their lives is also too much work and I'm just one more thing to deal with, wouldn't they do well to experience a little bit of kindness?  And, moreover, maybe I should show some kindness even though they didn't show much to me.  Because maybe we're all fighting a mighty battle behind the scenes.

I've always tried to be there for people who need it, or to support people who need some support, but I've just sort of done it through saying "Let me know if you need anything" and there's no real intention behind that.  So, that's what I'm thinking about as we move into the next few months.  Showing kindness with intention.  Taking an extra step to do something without being asked.  To do something without putting the burden of naming what that particular "thing" is back on the person who needs the help.  Intentionally being kind just because I think most people don't see enough of it.  I started last week when two co-workers were having a really rough time.  I spent $10 and brought them each flowers one day, because I can't fix what happened but I can brighten a moment within the aftermath.  I guess, in some small way, I've been slowly working up to this for a while.  A few weeks ago I cooked a meal and took it to a friend who just had a baby, because I know how hard those first days are.  I have been dropping boxes of clothing and second hand baby gear off to a former co-worker who doesn't have much family in the area, because I know how daunting it can be to gather all of those things yourself and every little bit helps.  And here's the thing, I keep thinking about this more and more and I feel like this whole showing kindness thing isn't just for people you're really close to, or who you have really invested in their relationship with you.  I think it's for everyone you know, no matter how casual that relationship might be, because in some way you've touched their life at some point.  So, who cares if it was 10 years ago?  Who cares if you haven't talked to them in a long time?  That doesn't decrease their need to feel cared for or loved in some small way.  So, that's what I've been keeping in mind.  And sure, some gestures might cost me a bit of cash.  The flowers cost $10, but I got a bonus at work and there wasn't a better use for it in that moment.  Taking a meal to someone might cost me a few bucks and some time, but how wonderful is it for those people to not have to worry about food for an evening?  Churches do tithing where you give a portion of your income to the church to do good, so maybe I need to just think of this as tithing to the universe where I can do the good that needs done.  And, it doesn't always have to cost money, since handing down clothes is free, or sending a quick note is also free.  But the point is that I plan to be more intentional in these things.  Not because I want anything in return, truly I don't, but because I know a lot of that is missing in my life and I can't change how I've been treated, but I can change how other people feel about their lives and how much they feel like they matter.

So, I think that's going to be my focus for a while.  To be intentionally kind in the absence of kindness.  Who knows, maybe in the long run it'll make me a better person as well.


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