Remember to Be Kind

The following is a re-print of a post I wrote last December on my personal blog. I’ve discontinued writing at it, but at the time I received a number of comments and emails expressing appreciation for it. It seemed timely to re-post it here. Thus…

My heart hurts.

It was a long day. I wasn’t entirely present at work. I got mixed up on when my lunch hour was and went at the wrong time, and I had trouble typing and pronouncing words. Distracted. It requires monumental effort to continuously face the public in person or on the phone in a cheerful, professional way. “Hi, how are you? Do you need help finding something?” This, while other concerns tug the coattails of my mind. And when a customer behaves snippily, I must resist the irritation that surges, and deny myself the act of grabbing them by the lapel and screeching, “Too bad you can’t have what you want right this minute! My fiancé’s father is dying! Get real.” No, I take a deep breath and remind myself of a quote I particularly cherish:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
–Philo of Alexandria

All of us are struggling to get through life. We are fighting various battles against loneliness, anger, ignorance, ego, betrayal, abandonment, loss, disappoinment, dissatisfaction, regret, insecurity, and the ever-present though subconscious awareness of our eventual death. Some of us are fighting to meet our basic needs: food, safety, shelter. Still others fight the battle of mental or physical challenges: dyslexia, paralysis, depression, chronic illnesses of all kinds. Also social deficits — namely poverty, and the problems accompanying this, such as lack of health care, poor education; and the polar opposite, affluence and obsession with social status.

The person who honks because you slow down for the car in front of you? Fighting a great battle.

The cashier who won’t meet your eyes or greet you as she rings up your purchase? Fighting a great battle.

The kid wearing more metal in his face than you have in your toolbox, dressed in weird clothes, jamming to his iPod? Fighting a great battle.

That doctor you saw for only five minutes and with whom you had to be assertive in order to be heard? Fighting a great battle.

The mother snarling at her child in the grocery store? Fighting a great battle.

The credit card service agent who slowly runs through the identification process before being willing to answer your question? Fighting a great battle.

The homeless guy with an eyepatch walking with a broken cane? Fighting a great battle.

Yourself? Fighting a great battle.

Be kind. Be kind.

As I write this, my fiancé’s dad is having a dime-sized hole drilled into his skull, from which material will be aspirated in his brain so they can test it. He will be in ICU the rest of this evening and probably tomorrow. We won’t know the diagnosis for a couple of days.

Remember, be kind. On days when I am struggling with my own problems, this is the hardest goal to aspire toward. Each person is wrapped up in his or her own world of concerns. As I worked today, I thought, “These people do not know that someone I love is close to dying.” Then I realized that such is the case a million times over in the world. How many customers pass through my life who are grieving, or staggering under huge debt, or dealing with an ill family member? Life can be wonderful, joyous, full of blessings. It can also be dull, punishing, and fucking hard.

Be kind.

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