Kindness in the Benefit of the Doubt

Have you ever been driving down the street, carefully obeying the rules of the road, when all of a sudden someone cuts you off?

You’re forced to hit the brakes because some madman is either driving like a bat out of Hades or didn’t check his mirrors well enough to notice you were there.

How about those times you walk into the store right behind someone who lets the door flop in your face? It would have taken no effort for them to hold the handle a moment longer, but instead you’re left thinking, “How rude!”

Sure, there are probably people in this world going out of their way to ruin another person’s day, but most of the time, I don’t think that’s the case.

Most of the time, I think people just aren’t thinking. Or perhaps they’re thinking too hard. Maybe they are so deep in thought they aren’t noticing the situation around them.

Have you ever let someone’s hustle hurt you?

A woman named Debbie had an experience while grocery shopping in Mankato, Minn. She was in a bit of a hurry to catch up with her niece. She certainly didn’t mean any offense, but I imagine the scene at the checkout could have been awkward if it hadn’t been for the nice lady in front of her and Debbie’s own reaction to the act of kindness.

“This past week, my niece and I bought groceries. She went to the self-checkout counter, but I told her that I never use those. I said I prefer to wait to be served so someone has job security. The checkout lady thanked me for that comment.

The clerk finished ringing in the young lady in front of me, but there were still a few items left on the counter. Figuring the buyer had stepped away to get another item, I asked if the worker could scan my single item quickly and showed her the cash I had in hand. The young lady in front of me stated those were still her items. I apologized for not understanding the situation. She promptly offered to buy my single item and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I told her the cash I had in my hand would be going into the Salvation Army red kettle in her honor. I was so amazed she would add to her grocery bill for a complete stranger. Made my day!”

Now obviously, Debbie wasn’t being rude or thoughtless, but thanks to everyone’s temperament, a potentially uncomfortable situation instead gave way to a whole chain of kind events.

When the guy cuts me off in traffic or the woman slams the door in my face, instead of getting offended, I like to play a little game.

I ask myself, What is going on in that person’s life right now? Is he hurrying to the hospital because he just found out his wife is in labor? Is she deep in thought because she is trying to figure out how to pay for her son’s new basketball shoes? Or did she spend the night taking care of her elderly mother and now she’s so exhausted she can’t see straight?

I’ll never know the reason behind other people’s behavior, but it’s freeing to know that I don’t have to let their actions determine my reactions.

Trying to see life through someone else’s eyes reminds me that we all have our own battles to fight and the greatest kindness we can sometimes give is simply the benefit of the doubt.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Leave a Reply