I’m working on a “Be Kind” series, not because I think I should be telling anyone how to be kind, but because I think being kind is important and I thought I might offer up some examples or scenarios that you could consider when interacting with other people, particularly people that you may not be close with.
Yesterday was my birthday. I’m not telling you this so that you will send lots of cards and checks written out to me for large sums of money to PO Box 20184 St. Simons Island, GA 31522, it is actually relevant to the story. My wife always does a great job of making me feel like my birthday is a special day. Every year on my birthday, without fail, she hangs streamers in our bedroom doorway, so that when I get up, I have to walk through the streamers. She also blows up balloons and leaves them laying around, sometimes all over the house. She always plans some type of surprise with the kids to really get them excited about my birthday. It’s usually something small, like this year they made a pie, and I usually know what it is, but the kids think they have this great secret, and they are so excited to be doing something for me on my birthday, because my wife makes them feel like it is important. My daughter told me she loved me more times yesterday than the rest of the year combined, and hearing a two year old say “happy birthday daddy” with a big grin on his face may be one of the coolest things ever. So, in my house, my birthday is made to be a special day.
But I don’t wear a shirt that says, “It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to” or “Happy Birthday To Me” or anything like that. You know those people who wear a crown all day or walk around with a kazoo humming the birthday song, so everyone in the world will know it is their birthday. So, people don’t really know it’s my birthday unless they know me. And I think, outside of the self promoting birthdayers of the world, most people are like that.
Yesterday at work, I had a student who has been having a hard time in class not yelling out exactly what he is thinking or feeling, at the exact moment that he is thinking and feeling it. So I asked him to step in the hall so that we could talk privately. Before I could get out there, the teacher who taught this student last year happened to walk by and she said, “I know you aren’t giving Dr. Hendley a hard time on his birthday. If there is anything that he deserves it is to have a great day on his birthday. I hope you aren’t doing any thing to ruin that”. That wasn’t the direction I was going to go with the conversation, but I thought it was neat that she felt that way. I like her, and we are nice to one another and help each other at work, but we aren’t friends. She heard it was my birthday because they put it on the morning announcements at school, and she felt like I deserved a good day on my birthday.
I think everyone deserves a good day on their birthday. Not everyone gets that, but I think everyone deserves it. One way we can be kind is to think about strangers we are interacting with and wonder, “What if it is their birthday” You wouldn’t want to be the jerk that they remember the rest of the day who treated them poorly. For me, when I leave the house in the morning after the streamers, balloons, and I love you’s, it’s easy for me to feel like everyone should know it’s my birthday because my family made such a big deal about it. So when someone does something like cut me off on the road, the first response might be, “hey, it’s my birthday, c’mon” (I don’t ever actually do that you know). So some people may be having a great day, or may have big plans later, and you don’t want to be any part of letting the air out of that balloon, so be kind. Other people don’t have a wife, or mom, or cute little kids who are bending over backward to make them feel special. There are people who get up and go to school or work and return home without much attention at all. Maybe they even have people in their families who forget all about their birthday or don’t care. But I know this, they care. On the inside, they are playing the kazoo while wearing their “Birthday Girl” shirts, and their crowns. And those people deserve a great day on their birthday too.
Most of our interactions with people during the day are short and meaningless. It doesn’t take much effort at all to be kind during this brief exchanges. So be kind. It could be their birthday.