I was jogging last week and ran past a parked patrol car. A cop was in it.
I make it a habit to wave to everyone I encounter, so I cut the air with my hand and smiled. He waved back and flashed a big grin, as if I had just made his day—as if he rarely gets acknowledged by civilians.
Surprised by the effect it had, I started thinking of other people that might benefit from extra kindness. This is what I came up with:
- Policemen. For the aforementioned reason.
- The homeless. Coupled with one really bad experience and widespread reports of fraud, I don’t give cash to panhandlers or the homeless. What I do instead is look them in the eye, say hello, and shake their hand (even if it’s dirty). Recognition alone can go a long way in brightening someone’s day and giving them hope. For what it’s worth, my family and I sometimes handout blessing bags, too.
- The lonely. I have a friend who is voluntarily single. Much to the chagrin of his mother, I suspect he’ll die a content, single man. Most loners, however, are involuntarily single. Whether by natural consequences or bad luck, being alone is hard. So if you’ve found true love, don’t take it for granted. Then be extra nice to those who haven’t or those who have lost it.
- Waiters. At a young age, my wife-to-be decided to never marry someone who was a jerk to waiters. Lucky for me, I was nice to the server who waited our first date. In short, you don’t have the right to look down upon someone just because they bring you food. So leave your superiority complex at the door and treat waiters like the people they are instead of like subjects.
- Children and teenagers. Growing up can be a scary thing. Doubly so for those with bad parents. So lift these little things up as often as you can. Take an interest in them even though you’re in a very different place in life. Protect them. Let loose with them. Be kind to them, and they’ll do unto you when you’re old as you did unto them when they were young.
- Seniors. I debated whether or not to even include this group on my list. After all, many of them are jaded, calloused, and never impressed. Ultimately, however, I think it’s our responsibility to give thanks and respect the generations we’re replacing, especially since many of them have had more difficult lives than us.
- The sick. It’s disheartening to suffer from long-term or permanent illness. So if you’re healthy, be courteous to the disabled. Visit the sick. And consider volunteering to this large group of people that are in need of company, hope, smiles, and humor.
- Minorities. I’m a white male. I haven’t experienced blatant discrimination very often. I can think of two notable exceptions. The first is being a member of a minority faith, especially in the deep south. The second was while having triage surgery in Brazil. Amid a sea of beatiful mulatos, I was laughed at by medical personnel and surrounding patients for being a pasty foreigner. It was a humiliating experience, made worse by physical pain and ineffective anesthesia. Admittedly, my limited experience with discrimination in no way compares to the lifelong experiences of legitimate minorities. But both instances helped me empathize somewhat with the plight of outsiders. No one likes to be left out. Do all you can to make everyone feel welcome, especially those that don’t look, talk, or think like you.
I’m sure there are a lot more. But those are the ones that stand out to me.
The story first published on blakesnow.com on April 23, 2013