Balancing Act

Traveling from judgment to kindness takes practice

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Kindness

Kindness (Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune / December 2, 2005)

The exercise is not sustainable, of course. Eventually I'd run out of noble pursuits to attach to the road rage-y kiss 'n' go parents. And even the most charitable part of me doesn't believe quite-a-little-snot guy wants to be my friend.

But it got me searching for goodness.

I started to feel a kinship with people who would otherwise have dragged me down. I started to see them, even the crabby ones, as allies — fellow humans who are juggling schedules and defeats and insecurities.

I started practicing some grace.

Which doesn't mean blindly and endlessly assuming the best in people. But it does mean assuming they're trying. Trying to get it all done, trying to keep it together, trying to be heard.

A few days later, I was dropping my daughter at school when I locked eyes with one of the parents volunteering for safety patrol. She was helping my daughter out of the car, and she gave me a warm smile and told me to have a good day.

And I saw her, in that moment, as a fellow human who is, most likely, juggling schedules and defeats and insecurities. It made her warmth and time and devotion that much more poignant. She got there and she smiled and she helped my child.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for a gesture that I've taken for granted dozens upon dozens of times: a grown-up helping my kid out of the car. I started noticing goodness where it truly exists, not just where I could dream it up.

And that's what I gained by assuming the best in people.

Plus a new sermon to deliver from my mount.

(Eye roll.)

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

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