(image from Pixabay)
"A young lady was waiting in the airport’s departure area pending her flight home. After realizing there was a delay, she bought a small bag of chocolate chip cookies to enjoy while she waited.
She made her way to the VIP lounge to sit and relax. She sat down in an armchair to enjoy her cookies and read her book.
Beside her sat a pleasant, young man reading his book. The bag of cookies between them. Neither spoke. The young lady took her first cookie. Then, much to her surprise, the young man also took a cookie.
He said nothing. She said nothing but was clearly bothered. For each cookie she took, he did the same. Again, no words or looks were exchanged, but her anger grew. This continued until there was only one cookie left.
Then the man took the last cookie and divided in half – leaving her half in the bag.
Well, that was it! She was so infuriated and bothered by his lack of consideration that she packed up her things and moved. Soon she boarded her flight, took her seat and began to settle in for her trip – still very upset by this young man’s lack of manners.
She went into her purse and she felt her heart sink. There, in her purse, was HER bag of cookies – unopened and untouched. She was so ashamed of how she responded and was further upset by the realization that it was too late to make amends and apologize.
This young man had shared HIS cookies without saying a word. He even gave her half of his last one. He wasn’t upset or worried about her actions. He gave without condition or feelings of anger or bitterness." - unknown author (shared via BeginwithYes)
The power of kindness to be done humbly, quietly, and with great love, is spectacular, especially when it is directed to a stranger, as in the Cookie parable. A man who's cookies were being eaten by a strange woman, a moment when he could have snatched his cookies away, or asked her what she was doing eating his food, but he instead, without judgement and indignation, shared his cookies. Perhaps he felt that the woman was hungry, upset, or confused .... perhaps he felt humour towards her seemingly presumptuous behaviour, or softness for her obvious mistake, or perhaps he was simply embracing a pure moment to show kindness in all its forms: open-mindedness, acceptance, love, care, non-judgement, etc.
What would have you done in that instance?
Today I had a moment of "Doh! Why didn't I think to do that?!?" (and by "do that" I mean buy a get well soon card for my dad's partner who is in hospital) .... but whilst visiting dad's partner I had multiple moments to be open to the moment and the people around me - from dad's partner herself, having an opportunity to chat to someone new and tell all her hospital tales too, to the nurse who gave me an appreciative smile as I thanked him and said goodbye, to the strange young woman who was sitting outside in her pj's smoking, who mumbled a have a happy new year as we walked passed - I turned and told her "you too" and the beaming grin I got back was more then enought thanks for noticing her.
Is that what kindness really is? Just noticing people and letting them take what they need from you in a healthy, light, and loving way. Just like in the parable, the man let the woman take his cookies because they were only cookies, and to him she needed them, so why not let her take them. I am not advocating an unhealthy taking, where a person drains you of both physical and emotional resources, that is not being kind, but being co-dependent in some way. Boundaries are healthy, for you and the person receiving the kindness.
So if you are trying to cultivate kindness, how can you set boundaries? To start you can set compassionate boundaries - so being aware of the moment and the people in it, and being open-minded about what you can and can't do. This means cultivating something that Aristotle calls "practical wisdom", (or phronesis), or common-sense. Establish boundaries for yourself - what are you emotional, physical, and financial limits for kindness? For me, being introverted, I need a certain amaount of "alone" time to function properly, time to meditate, rest, and just be, when I have that emotionally I'm there to give give give. Physically, because of my disability, I can't help you move house - literally - but I can keep you company, cook you dinner, and drive some of your stuff to the new place. Financially, I can shout you lunch on the odd occasion, and I can donate to a few charities (before I would become a charity case myself).
Be flexible with your boundaries though, circumstances can change, but remember you are in control of how much you can give at any given time.
What have you done today to be kind?