Sometimes it feels like kindness, especially that between strangers, is becoming rare, harder to find. Sadly, it seem random kindness is the unexpected, the surprise in your day. Yet, how many of us need that boost, that pleasant shock to lift our spirits? Once in a while, that moment of kindness comes and encourages us or changes our perspective …or, if we are fortunate, both.
It was on a recent field adventure with my family that I experienced both. We headed up the Northern California coast to on a beautiful, blue-sky, summer day. I didn’t see the beauty though. I was too busy focusing on the list of negatives I had chosen to worry about that day. With a pounding headache, an upsetting conversation from the day before still processing in my head, an overwhelming list of things to accomplish in the next few days, and a doctor appointment I was anxious about I was anything but focused on the beauty outside. Every turn on the twisty highway annoyed me, threatening to make me sick. Every noise from the babies in the back seat sounded more like whining and grated in my ears. Every tense minute that went by found me more and more uptight.
It was a day where people’s smiles seemed like smirks and their “hellos” seemed to have attitude. Or maybe that was just when I looked in the mirror…It was a day where the gorgeous sun was too bright and bothersome. I knew that being around me on this day was anything but pleasant, but apologies weren’t coming all too soon. I was digging my grumpy heels in. We were about 45 minutes into the hike and the walk inside Fort Ross when we came to one of the last buildings. I was relieved that we would finally be out of this place and on our way home.
As we entered the building that obviously was a workshop, gunsmith and artillery supply, I started taking photos as quickly as possible to move along. The baby I was wearing was getting heavy and my patience was almost gone. The stupid bars around everything made it hard to get a decent photo. Stupid bars. One of the volunteers, Harold, tried to engage me by asking about the pictures I was taking. He only made me grit my teeth more. I’m ashamed to say I was probably quite rude to Harold. That didn’t phase him though! He continued to share about the Fort, the history and the artillery. Any other day I would have been intrigued, would have engaged, for there was no doubt his passion and knowledge was infectious. I just happened to be immune today. Or stubborn.
I was getting ready for one last attempt, digging deep in my arsenal to brush off Harold when he pulled out his own weapon: kindness. He looked around and then told us to come closer. After suspiciously agreeing, I realized he was allowing us to come on the other side of the stupid bars, behind the sign that said, “NO ENTRY”. He was bending the rules so I could take better pictures. An act of kindness I surely didn’t deserve. In that moment, I felt my harsh walls shatter under his kindness.
The rest of the afternoon, I noticed that bluer than blue sky and how it complimented the warm grasses dancing in the wind. I noticed the amazing craftsmanship in each building, could almost hear the soldiers and traders that walked at the Fort in times past. I smelled the salt air, the eucalyptus trees and hugged my babies. I appreciated my husband for taking time for this field photo adventure and for putting up with me the first half of the day. Most of all, I thought of Harold and smiled. He had encouraged me, had reached me like nothing had been able to that day. And he had done it with such a simple, easy gesture of kindness.