The third day that Brennis was in the hospital, two hours after we found out that he was going to need open heart surgery, I had gone down to the hospital McDonalds to get a cup of coffee (yes, the hospital had a McDonalds…more on that later). I was the third person in line and though I was in a state of shock and tears were threatening to come pouring out of my eyes at any moment I was transfixed by the activity behind the counter. This McDonalds had become my source of nourishment (I hadn’t yet discovered the hospital’s wonderful cafeteria stocked with healthy food) and I had come to be familiar with the restaurant’s staff. This day, the manager, a wirey woman with long hair gathered in a frantic bun beneath her burgandy manager’s cap, was running back and forth in an effort to fix the malfunctioning shake machine. In another state of mind this display would have annoyed me. If it had been two hours earlier, I might have found the whole thing to be too much and left. For some reason, however, at this moment I found the manager’s frenzied activity profound. Suddenly, the area behind the counter of this McDonalds became an operating room in the hospital and the energentic manager had become a surgeon. In that instant I had a strange sense of respect for the woman racing around with various pieces of plastic tubing and a stern, worried look on her face. This was important to her. This was her job. People would soon be wanting shakes and she didn’t want to disappoint them. I stood there, smiling…knowing that I had somehow been let in on one of Life’s little secrets. I had allowed myself to be open to the lesson and I learned it.
What did I learn? I learned what I believe to be one of the two core values
of life: Be Kind To Others. I had often watched the people behind the counter at
this McDonald’s and wondered how different their perspective was to people who
worked at other fast food restaurants having to be in conact every day with
people dealing with huge, sad, complicated medical decisions and death. I was
surprised that for the most part the employees at this McDonald’s were similar
to those at any other McDonald’s. They were calm and friendly but not overly
connected with either their customers or the job that they were doing. They
were, like most of us, going through the motions of working or, more accurately,
going through the motions of living. The fact that the rest of us were possibly
dealing with life and death decisions was really inconsequential to them. As I
considered this I realized that at any given point in any day we all come across
people that we know nothing about who may be going through a monumental life
crisis and more often than not we will never know.
I understand that Be Kind To Others seems like a pretty basic concept….but as
you become conscious of your dealings with people during the day try to be
conscious of your interactions with people as it relates to being kind. Are you
always kind to others or are you kind only to those who are kind to you? Do you,
like many of us, wait to see how the other person will act before you decide how
you are going to relate to them? Why not be kind first?
The other day I was in a bad mood and had to walk to the drug store. I
encountered a “street person” (one who I had encountered before) who asked me
for a cigarette. Because I was in a bad mood and just didn’t want to deal with
him I ignored him and just kept walking. Two days later I read about a woman who
had interviewed homeless people and she had asked them what the worst thing
about being homeless was. The most common response was that people treated them
like they were invisible.
I had a choice that day. I could have been kind but wasn’t. Being kind
wouldn’t have been any more difficult than ignoring him and even though I wasn’t
able to give him what he asked me for I might have been able to give him
something he desired. Today I choose to be kinder than that. I owe it to him and
to everyone else, including myself.