You’ll find that I’m always living my life as an experiment. This past week was no exception.
I lead a pretty ordinary life in a bigger-than-life kind of place: Washington, DC. There are more suits per square inch than anywhere else on the planet. I’m pretty certain about that. It’s also clear that the nation’s capitol is “the Hollywood for ugly people.” Now this is not to suggest that we lack beauty, fashion and chic know-how, or that folks are somehow smudged by the grime of politics. No, it’s a place of power, ego and ambition. With that often comes a sense of smugness, jadedness, self-importance and insecurity. So when I encounter this every day on my commute, at the office, at lunch or on the streets, I wonder two things: 1) how can I make things better for this high-octane place, and 2) what will keep my soul intact?
Kindness answers both of these questions. It guided my experimental journey this past week. For seven days-plus, kindness took on the wardrobe of compliments, or as Webster’s defines it—“expressions of praise and admiration.” While I generally give compliments naturally to friends and loved ones, I can be less effervescent with this kind of generosity to those I don’t know. And to give myself some kind of break, it’s not always easy to know what “strangers” are good at, in order to pay them a compliment or show your appreciation. But I decided to watch people—watch them carefully, so that meant no reading my Kindle on the metro rides, no texting or talking on the iPhone when outside of the office for lunch. Instead I paid attention to all the passersby and I made eye contact. (Of course I smiled…Who can help it when you are looking into another’s eyes, right?)
Once I paid attention, it was easy to offer kind words to others. Things began to fall out of my mouth, even though I was scared to give folks the gift of my words, for fear of ridicule (that fear is a whole different blog!)…For instance, three women entering the train car giggling and carrying on became the opportunity to leave them with “your laughter is contagious! Thank you! Have a great day!” The well-coifed and cheerfully attired secretary whom I see daily, gave rise to offering, “I always admire how well put-together you are. When I see you in the morning, it makes my whole day brighter.” The merchant on the sidewalk flashes a grin and receives “I LOVE your smile! You’re beautiful!”
It took absolutely nothing from me to give a smattering of honest and kind words. Out of that nothing became something: I gained the world…and my new friends (whom I may never see again) had a moment of being in the light. Someone noticed and acknowledged them. Who will you see today? What will you tell them? Go on! Be the “kindness in words”—be the love!