Just Be Kind

I like quotes. I’ve collected quotes for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I like them because of their message, other times I struck by the perfect combination of words. And while I could fill pages and pages (or should I say posts and posts) with favorites, I do think that perhaps one of the most important quotes I’ve ever come across is the following:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Plato (though apparently the author of this adage remains up to debate)

I was reminded of this saying today when, at the grocery store, I ran into a woman I know from my job. She tragically lost her only daughter a little less than a year ago. My immediate reaction, as it always is when I run into someone I know, was to say the typical: “Hey! How are you?” with a (not insincere, nor completely natural) grin plastered to my face. And of course, that is exactly how I greeted her. She was kind, we traded casual conversations–small talk about the frustrations of grocery shopping on a Sunday, and then we parted ways. It was a very brief conversation, but the whole time my mind was racing, thinking about the pain she must feel for the loss of her child. How each trip to the grocery store might wrack her with memories. How she was no longer buying the types of foods her daughter once loved. How every child she passed was a reminder of what she no longer had. Of course I didn’t express any of this. In fact, this was all projection on my part; emotions that I could only imagine I would feel in her situation. But it hit me– here is one woman in a store of hundreds. I happen to know her and know her story, or at least the bare minimum of her and her husband’s saga that eventually led to the loss of a young and sick child. Here is this one woman who I know has had this incredibly difficult ordeal. But what about the other people in this store right now? How many of them have recently had such terrible losses?

We all struggle with our own inner demons. Our issues vary in complexity, but not importance. We all have our own shallow troubles that can be blown out of proportion, but at the time they truly do feel like the end of the world. And, unfortunately, most of us will also have not-so-shallow drama; we will feel the all-consuming, mind-numbing pain of grief after an ordeal of such magnitude that it changes our entire world. At different phases of our life we have different worries and fears, but we are all fighting a battle. At the root of it, life is not easy. We will experience fun and adventure, but no one is without pain.

Now, as someone who dislikes conflict and cringes in the face of confrontation, my personal belief system focuses greatly upon the concept of being kind to everyone. Yes, everyone. I’m a thorough advocate of the “kill ’em with kindness” theory. But that’s another story. The point I’m trying to make is that it is SO incredibly important to be kind to one another. It takes little extra effort but makes a world of difference. We are all struggling, maybe not today or tomorrow, but each and every one of us is fighting something. Understand that, accept that, embrace that, act upon that assumption.

I may be something of a peace monger (in fact, I have a whole theory that World Peace could be achieved by nothing more than puppy dogs and warm cookies– an idealist doctrine, to be sure, but it would certainly work for me). The bottom line, however, is that this world is never without its hardships, so why not do our part to add a little more pleasantness to it.