Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
– Philo of Alexandria
Today I was reminded of something very simple but very important.
I was paying for lunch at a fast food restaurant when I noticed the cashier had little cuts all over her arms. I looked at her face and right away recognized that look of disillusionment, like as a kid she thought the world was one way, but then grew up and found it was something else. To be fair, I don’t know her, nor do I know her story. But those cuts across her arms clearly told of a battle she was in the middle of.
In those few minutes I would have given anything to make her smile even just a little bit. I wanted to yell “Surprise! I’m you’re 10,000th customer!” and throw confetti and hand her a big check and a puppy. But I didn’t do those things. Instead I tried to be extra polite; I looked her in the eyes and said “thank you so much,” when she gave me my food.
I know, I probably should have done the puppy thing.
The funny thing is, there was a guy right in front of me in a shirt and tie. I couldn’t see his arms, but nothing about his posture or appearance would lead me to think there were cuts on them. And yet, I’ve been a person just long enough to know that this guy was in the middle of something, too. Something challenging, maybe even painful. Just because there were no visible signs of battle doesn’t mean he’s not fighting. Because if he’s a person, he is/was/will be fighting something.
We all have this tendency to oversimplify people. That lady driving on my bumper is nothing more than an idiot who deserves to be ran off the road. That guy at work is a complete jerk. That kid in my class is a ____________. We like to imagine others as one-dimensional. Easily defined in just a word or two. (Ironically, whenever I, say, drive up on someone’s bumper it’s for a very good reason and the person going the speed limit is now the idiot). But kindness is the opposite. It’s the ability to see someone as more than they appear and to treat them with respect, dignity, and consideration, acknowledging that being a person can be really hard at times. And that lady, or that guy, or that kid, is in fact a person.