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You don’t have to be stingy with kindness

I was at a mall recently, sitting in the food court, near a large carousel. I was engaged in one of my favorite pastimes — people watching — when two women entered the mall and made their way toward the carousel.

They were older women, in their 70s and 80s, is my guess. One had a cane and was holding the arm of the other. Very slowly, they made their way to the carousel. The woman without the cane helped the one with the cane to a chair in the food court, and then approached the woman running the carousel. She told the worker that the two women were sisters and that her sister had dementia. She said she liked to take her sister to do things that would put a smile on her face, and that those activities were often things her sister remembered as a child. The worker helped the woman figure out how to get two tokens for a ride, and then they both helped the woman with the cane make her way onto the platform and into the seat of a sleigh on the carousel. Her sister joined her.

My tears started flowing. Probably for many different reasons, emotions, and memories. It reminded me of the sister I lost, of the sister and brother I still had and how important they are. It reminded me that everyone has their own struggles and that we never know what others are dealing with.

It also reminded me that kindness exists all around us.

Fast-forward a couple of days, and I was riding back from an event with some friends. We got caught up talking about a lot of the negativity in the world, and things people do that we don’t understand. After we spent time sharing stories and talking about those topics, things got quiet for a moment. In that moment of silence, I got a terrible feeling. I felt bad for having focused on that negativity and gossip. I remembered the situation just days earlier at the carousel and how positive and touching of an experience it was.

I quickly said to my fellow travelers that I felt bad focusing on that negativity and gossip and that I knew plenty of good people, as well. We all agreed that there were many good people in the world and in our community, and that just because someone makes a questionable decision doesn’t make them a bad person.

I spent a lot of time thinking about those experiences. I thought about how I felt watching what happened at the carousel and then about how I felt engaging in the chatter about unbelievable things that happen in our society. I was reminded, and would like to remind you, that there are incredible, kind, giving, caring people all around us and that, even when it seems the world is more garbage than good, if we just pay attention closely, we will see the kindness shine through. And if you don’t see kindness, even when you look closely, then you can create kindness and share kindness of which the world needs more.

There is no finite amount of goodness, kindness, or care that we can put out into the world. There is also no finite amount of garbage we can put into the world.

If we have a choice every day whether we will put kindness, love, and good into the world, or if we will put hate, trash, greed, and negativity into the world, why wouldn’t we choose the first option?

You don’t have to be stingy with your kindness. You won’t run out. In fact, it seems to me that the more kindness we put out, the more love and kindness we have to give. As well as the more kindness we receive. I believe the same is likely true for garbage. The more we put out into the world, the more likely we are to continue putting it out, and the more we receive.

Yuck. Who wants that?

The women at the carousel were a wonderful, sweet reminder for me, and I’d like to share that experience as a reminder to you, as well. Choose to put kindness into the world and choose to see and appreciate the kindness that already exists all around us.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.

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