Be Kind. No Exceptions.

Here we are, well into December, and I have yet to catch the Christmas spirit. Perhaps that is due to my family’s incredibly stressful and difficult fall. Or perhaps it is just because I am so BUSY. But, in all honesty, I think its because the world it just so broken.

2015 was a hard year to be a human. Refugee crisis. Mass shootings. Global terrorism. Donald Trump.  I thought our species rose above all this evil and destruction after the Holocaust. Didn’t we learn our lesson?

I genuinely feel like global horribleness is spreading to everyday life. People just aren’t nice anymore. Last month we were on a two hour flight from Connecticut to Chicago. For the first 20 minutes, Ben quietly ate lunch. Then he napped on my lap for 80 minutes. Then he was up for the last 20 minutes of the flight. He never cried, but he did screech every now and then. Maybe he was bored. Maybe his ears hurt. Maybe the giant molars poking through his gums bothered him. I did everything I could to limit the occasional screech – books, snacks, cuddles, songs. On a scale of 1-10 of badly behaved kids on a plane, I’d put him at a 2.5.

When we landed, the lady in front of us said to the lady behind us: “My flight would have been a lot better if that baby wasn’t screaming.” I looked right into her eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I did everything I could to keep him happy.” She gave me a scowl and turned around.

In a civilized world, a woman wouldn’t try to make a mother feel bad like that. In a civilized world, she would have asked me if his ears were hurting. Maybe she would have made silly faces at him as we landed, just to cheer him up. But, this isn’t a civilized world we are living in now. This is a world where mass shootings are nearly accepted as a fact of everyday life, so what makes snarky nastiness on an airplane so bad?

The experience enlighted me, though. That woman taught me we all need to give each other a break. It is a lesson I need an occasional reminder on (especially when I am stuck in godawful Chicago traffic). Thanks to my encounter with a witch on that plane, I now believe that unless you treat everyone like your beloved grandmother, you just aren’t a nice person. That includes:

1. the unfriendly check out lady at the grocery store

2. the guy behind the counter at the dry cleaner who doesn’t speak your language

3. the homeless person who reeks of urine begging for coins on the corner

4. the person driving in front of you who is driving like an IDIOT

5. your co-worker who really f@#&ed up that spreadsheet

6. your spouse who didn’t empty the dishwasher

If we can’t afford everyone the benefit of the doubt, then we shouldn’t expect it when we are having a rough time. Which brings me back to my story of the mean lady on the plane: perhaps she was having a bad day. Maybe she had a migraine and occasional shrieks from an antsy 20-month old were more than she could bear. Maybe she has been trying for months to have a baby of her own, and every cry from another reminds her of the struggle. Rather than letting her meanness get me down, I decided to let her meanness spark some kindness in my own weary soul.

And, you know what?

I felt better choosing kindness.

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