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What If Every One of Us Gave Someone Reason to Be Thankful for Our Kindness This Week?

November 23, 2009

I’m writing this in the train station in Cincinnati. Well, actually, I’m not in the train station because although the train stops here, Amtrak only rents space in this building. That’s what we were told when we arrived loaded down with our bags around 8 p.m. and the doors were about to be locked, not to be opened again until 11 p.m. The train headed for Chicago, our next destination, makes a seven minute stop here at 1:10 a.m.

There is no where to go around the station, no fast food restaurants to hang out in, no place to go even if we had a way to get there. Downtown is several miles away and is deserted on Sunday night. We had to return our rental car, and we’d planned to wait in the empty terminal like we did when we arrived here at 3 a.m. several days ago. We cannot do this, we are told, so we’re waiting in a small room with a mom and four kids moving from Ohio to California. I am thankful not to be a mom with four kids moving from Ohio to California. These kids are wonderful, but I’m sure it will be a long trip.

When I asked the man who was about to lock the door what people who were leaving in the middle of the night were supposed to do, I was told (I wrote this down so I would remember) that it was “not his job to make sure our trip was a pleasant one and that we should have made arrangements,“ reiterating that this was a museum and not a train station. I understand that there is a museum housed in this building that once filtered thousands of travelers to their destinations, but the train does stop here in the middle of the night and not all travelers are from the city where they board. A kind word would have gone a long way, but we didn’t get one, although he did agree to let my husband in the building after he returned the rental car rather than make him wait in the cold for three hours. I am thankful for this.

At first I was just going to rant, but it seems much more productive to remind myself—and you—how much kindness can mean and how disheartening it can be to encounter a callous and uncaring attitude. Often there is nothing we can do to help, but even saying so kindly can make a difference.

The kindness challenge was rite of passage in my high school classroom. I now use it with university classes. This seems like a lovely opportunity to assign it to you as Thanksgiving homework.

The Kindness Challenge

That guy just cut right I front of me. But I’m not going to let it bother me. No
I’m on my way to work and I decided it doesn’t matter who wants to cut in front of my lane today. I’m not going to let it bother me one bit. Once I get to work, find myself a parking space, if somebody wants to jump ahead of me and take it, I’m going to let them.
• Oprah Winfrey

Make yourself a blessing to someone. Your kind smile or pat on the back just might pull someone back from the edge.
• Carmelia Elliott

Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer.
• Mignon McLaughlin (1966),
The Second Neurotics Notebook

For the next several days, whenever possible, be kind to people. Return rudeness with a smile and grumpy words with understanding, courtesy, and kindness. Stop and think before responding in anger. What does this have to do with being a successful student? Try being kind to classmates and to teachers and to staff you encounter. Assume that those you meet are doing the best they can and do your part to make their day a little bit better.

The accumulation of small, optimistic acts produces quality in our culture and in your life. Our culture resonates in tense times to individual acts of grace.
• Jennifer James

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
• Aesop’s Fables, “The Lion and the Mouse”

Today I bent the truth to be kind and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
• Robert Brault

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.
• Seneca

A kind word is like a spring day.
• Russian proverb

After you’ve given kindness a try, write about how it felt for you and how it was received by others.

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.
• Abraham Lincoln

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