Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 30, 2022

A reminder to be kind

Earlier this month, husband Art and I stopped at the Blind Beautician beauty salon in Rosendale, Wisconsin. I had written a column about owner Bobbie earlier in the year and she had mentioned she wanted to frame it to hang in her shop.

Art volunteered to do the framing and by stopping by at the end of the work day, we could spend some time chatting. Bobbie mentioned it was difficult for her and husband Josh to get away, what with his work as a dairy farmer and her time in the salon, but they had recently treated themselves to a meal at a nearby restaurant.

I expected she would comment about the food or some related matter, but instead she became somewhat pensive. It seems each table had a table tent - a small stand-up piece of heavy paper that typically features some house specialty or offer. But these surprised her. They were asking customers to be kind to their servers because the restaurant was short-staffed.

"Is this what we've come to?" Bobbie said. "We have to ask people to be kind?"

During our recent trip to Great Britain, hotels and restaurants there also had signs encouraging patrons to be patient and kind because they had trouble finding help.

As we were talking, a friend of Bobbie's who had also been her last client returned.

"After I left, I thought I should have taken a picture of you together," she said. So Bobbie stood between Art and me and she snapped a photo, telling us she was going to share it on the village's Facebook page.

Bobbie's comment and what her friend had done prompted me to think about kindness. Art and I attended a Herb Alpert and Lani Hall concert after returning home. Alpert has long had a reputation of helping struggling young artists and a music video during the show had a "Be Kind" clip. Then, I noticed a sign in front of the Wesley Campus Ministry in Manhattan urging people to "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti."

Maybe we do need those reminders to think about kind acts - people opening doors for others, teachers spending extra time with struggling students, health-care workers working long hours caring for their patients, humanitarian workers risking their own safety helping victims of war or natural disasters. I know during my recent brush with cancer, I appreciated the nurses, doctors, oncologists and others who cared for me and were patient, knowledgeable, good-humored ... and kind.

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted" is attributed to Greek storyteller Aesop, who lived in the sixth century B.C. Another quote ascribed to him is: "Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom."

Ephesians 4:32 is an often-quoted Bible verse at weddings. The New King James version is, "And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you." Whether a person is religious or not, this seems to me to be an idea with widespread relevance.

When I mentioned to friend Bryce about acts of kindness, he said:

... the first thing that came to mind was Guayaquil, Ecuador during the student riots the night I left Salinas in June 1976 and was going to spend a calm evening there awaiting a 1 a.m. flight. The businesses had their metal covers pulled down over the windows because of the riots going on. ... I was walking along in ignorance walking straight into the riot. Someone opened a door and just grabbed me and pulled me inside a restaurant or bar as I was walking in the direction of the horde of students marching down that street. They had seen me with my backpack and ignorant 25-year-old face. They made me stay inside their business until the student vs. police clash was over. Then they called a taxi and made me go straight to the airport to wait out my 4 or 5 hours rather than stay in the city center. It did become violent ... They had no reason to help me, but someone saw an opportunity to help a foreigner and did it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." Had the stranger not pulled Bryce to safety, it's hard to tell what might have happened.

Our friend Jan's 1983 offer of a free place to stay above her business in Oswestry, England was the start of a 40-plus-years' friendship. Jan continues to help family and friends in many ways, large and small - caring for their homes and gardens when they're away or ill, taking neighbors to doctor appointments, raising money for cancer research, befriending those who are alone.

Lester Freeman, a fellow who lived in Truro, Iowa, took Art home when his car broke down in a snowstorm. Freeman gave him a place to sleep for the night and the next day cooked Art breakfast and drove him to the nearest bus station so he could return to work. When Art tried to pay him, Lester refused, saying he'd like to think Art would do the same for one of his kids.

Fred Rogers of "Mr. Rogers" fame said, "There are three ways to ultimate success: the first way is to be kind, the second way is to be kind, and the third way is to be kind."

Perhaps my favorite quote about kindness is attributed to the Dalai Lama: "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."

Whether it's a table tent, a sign beside the road, a clip in a video or just reflecting on an act of kindness bestowed on us, perhaps a reminder is exactly what is needed every now and then.

(l-r) Gloria, Bobbie and Art; Wesley Campus Ministry sign; Art, Jan and Gloria

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