Trying to Be Kind People ~ BitterSweetLife

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trying to Be Kind People

Something I’ve noticed, living in an apartment building with several hundred tenants, is how hard it is for us to practice kindness. Main exhibit: our entry system.

The back door of our building, where everybody comes and goes, just so happens to be a beast designed for maximum awkwardness of movement. I’ve seen people stand there wrestling with the lock for two or three minutes. I’ve done it myself. And if there happens to be a good wind blowing, heaving the massive, sagging door open with a bag of groceries or a child is an athletic feat.

Despite all this, it’s pretty rare for someone to unabashedly hold the door open for a neighbor.

Most common scenario: You watch, sometimes from a mere ten feet away, as the door swings shut behind the person you’ve followed all the way in from the parking lot. This person has, amazingly, remained ignorant of your presence during the last couple minutes, or, having heard your footsteps, had a sudden fit of amnesia and forgot that you would use the same door as them to get inside. WHAM! You pull out your own key and begin tersely struggling with The Door.

Next most common scenario: You follow a neighbor in from the parking lot, carrying a back pack, two books, a bag of groceries and Aidan, praying silently that this person will hold the door open for the millisecond it will take you to catch up and make a grab for the handle. Plainly, with a glance over her shoulder, she has seen you staggering toward the building behind her. And then—thank you Jesus!—it happens. The lady does not meet your eye, but she furtively holds open the door, allowing you to slip inside.

Least common scenario: You walk up the parking lot, overburdened with a 50 pound bag of rare, gourmet coffee beans, a mega-sized pack of toilet paper (not heavy, but very awkward) and Aidan, who sits on your shoulders pounding your head and saying, “Ball, ball.” One of your neighbors is walking beside you, almost stride for stride. He looks over, smiles and nods. A little later, he opens the door and holds it open for you. He grins. “How’s it going?” “Not bad. Could be better, though. The kid is trying to dribble my head.”

Million dollar question: Why is it so hard to be kind—overtly, happily, unapologetically?

I guess I’ve felt the awkwardness myself. You stand there, holding the door, and people glance at you with that slightly shy and incredulous look they save for a rescuer. C’mon, you want to say, I only held the door. It took me all of ten seconds. I’m not expecting a tip. But at the same time, you feel slightly vulnerable yourself, because you went out of your way to be kind.

I wonder what this says about us, our character, our culture. However, because I worked in the sun for nine hours today, I need to cut my musings short here. Anyone else want to take a shot? Are you tracking with me, or is my experience some kind of anomaly?

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John said...

I hear ya. The worst is when I am sometimes actually tempted to feel proud about holding a door open for 5. Whole. Seconds. As if that deed somehow shows I'm a better person or something.

Thinking about it that way just emphasizes how much of a loser I really am.

Thanks a LOT for reminding me. ;-)

Andy said...

I find a similar experience with the elevator...the rush to press the "close door" button on the elevator just so we don't have to make a stop at a floor beneath our own.

There's the quiet cheer as the door closes without anyone jumping in the elevator car...but then a briefcase or hand sticks through the closing door, which pops back open again, letting in a couple more, and I have the silent scream.

As if stopping for 10 seconds on the 15th floor will ruin my day on my way to the 24th...

Katherine said...

I understand where you are coming from. I don't necessarily have a problem with holding the door for someone, but the whole communication thing gets me. I've come to decide that it's a space issue. As long as I don't say anything to the other person I can stay in my own little bubble and own little world. I've struggled with this, because God doesn't call us to live in our own little bubble. He calls us to invade the world and infiltrate every crevice with his light. Easier said than done. Thanks for the reminder.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife