This is a post by Kandice.
One of the things that has stuck out to me with the notion of conscious kindness, is that in order to practice it, you must be aware enough to recognize it. When you do find it, you need to both acknowledge it and engage with it. When I think about conscious kindness, I think of it like flip sides of a coin.
On the Giving Side: How you treat others, meeting the needs of others, or even how you practice self-care. None of these have to cost a dime. I mean, you can spend a lot of money buying and donating goods, for example. But I don’t think money is a required element of the conscious kindness equation.
On the Receiving Side: If you’ve been on the receiving end of an act of kindness, at the very least acknowledged it. If you want to go even further, you can choose to engage with that gift. You might be wondering what I mean by engaging with that gift. A couple of weeks ago, I was a bystander to a beautiful exchange of kindness. And it illustrates what I mean by gift engagement.
The Back Story. For those who don’t know, we send our children to a small, faith-based private school. There are many things we love about it, including the rigorous academics, the small community and the fact that the children attend chapel 3 days each week. The children are involved in the service by accepting Acolyting responsibilities. Different roles are assigned (for example, the greeter and cross bearer), and each child acolytes two or three times each year. Now, carrying the Cross or the Torch is cool, but the Acolyte Lottery Winner (or loser, depending on your kid’s personality) is the person who gets to be THE READER.
From a lectern at the front of the chapel, the Reader faces the congregants and speaks into a microphone. He or she is the CENTER OF ATTENTION as they first read a verse, then lead a responsive reading. They practice at home the week before their big day. Our girl has known since the first week of school that on this particular day SHE WAS THE READER.
Girl: Is it on your calendar, Mom? Mom? I’m going to put it on my calendar, too. Daddy, did you put my Reader day on your calendar? I get to be the Reader next week! Are you coming tomorrow?
*literally 10 seconds later*
Girl: Are you coming tomorrow?
*Maybe 5 minutes later*
Girl: MOM- ARE YOU COMING TOMORROW?!?!?
Me: Honey, yes! Daddy and I will both be there for your BIG DAY!
The Exchange of Kindness. I got to the chapel a little early so she wouldn’t be worried and searching for me. But Stephen wasn’t there yet. I took a seat in the front row of the chapel and assumed Stephen had gotten caught up at work. As I watched my girl and the other acolytes process up the aisle, I readied my phone to record her. Just as she took her place at the lectern, Stephen snuck in and grabbed a seat next to mine. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief and the girl grinned before she started to speak. She did an amazing job reading (flawless!) and after the service was over, Stephen went to help her hang up her robe.
While I waited for them, the girl’s teacher from three years ago came up to me. (We’ll call her Mrs. Teacher.)
“I am so sorry,” Mrs. Teacher said.
I was confused. “For what?”
“I didn’t recognize Stephen and I made him go check in at the front desk,” Mrs. Teacher said.
The Movember light bulb went off in my head. “Oh, yeah, the beard. He does look pretty different.”
Mrs. Teacher was a little embarrassed, I think. “I just didn’t recognize him. And we’re on high alert around here because last week there was an incident at one of the other schools with a stranger on campus.”
After telling Mrs. Teacher there was no need to apologize, I thanked her for keeping the safety of our kids at the top of her mind. She quickly left to take her students to their next class.
When the girl was on her way with her class, Stephen told me what had happened. Not only did she direct him to the front desk for a visitor’s badge, but she physically put herself in between him and her students. She made a split-second judgment and put herself in between a perceived potential harm and the children for whom she has responsibility. That is more than conscious kindness. That is straight up heroism. And she didn’t do it because people were watching or because she’d win a prize.
Stephen was so moved by it, and appreciated it so fully, instead of going to his car, he went to the head of the school to tell her how amazing Mrs. Teacher was. She was so fully selfless in that moment, for the benefit of every child at that school, it was awe inspiring and beautiful. So generous. It’s a quiet, almost imperceptible kindness, but with enormous possible effect.
When I think about engaging with the kindness, that’s what I mean. He could have left it alone and gone about his day. Instead, he personally thanked Mrs. Teacher and told her boss how awesome she is.
Acknowledging a kindness, saying thank you and, if the situation warrants it, propelling that kindness forward doesn’t cost anything. But it means a lot.
Have you been the recipient of an act of kindness? Have you performed an act of conscious kindness that someone acknowledged? How did either impact you or someone around you? Please chime in and let us know in the comments.