You have to say that it’s been a summer filled with challenging news from across the globe. Thinking about this essay, it is almost overwhelming as I consider the range of conflicts, challenges and disasters that we face today in our global community. It is a clear focus to concentrate on the conflict with ISIS and the beheadings of the two journalists in western Iraq. The active war in eastern Ukraine and the saber rattling of both Russia and NATO bring back pre-cold war fears. The rampant spread of the Ebola virus and the potential for a real global pandemic seems to just be another part of a war and fear ridden summer of 2014. While this essay in no way attempts to handle the geo-political or geo-medical issues at hand, it does attempt to take a small step in another direction.
As many of you know and many have read, I lost a very dear friend, mentor and former boss to ALS in the summer of 2009. Bruce Paynter was one of a kind in so many ways, and my ability to spend some time with him and his family during the final few weeks and months of his life is a treasure that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I have written a number of essays about that time, and my many lessons from our visits. (You can find all the essays in the archive to the left near the top of this blog listed as “Lessons from Bruce Paynter.”) Today, I want to reflect back to one idea that Bruce shared in a video that he made a few months before his passing, where he talked about “putting on the kindness glasses.”
Bruce made a video that was shared broadly across his company. In it he shares a number of perspectives and ideas, says thanks to a number of folks, and explains to the organization what was happening in his ordeal with ALS. I keep the video on my desktop and find myself “rewatching” it regularly. Towards the middle of the video, he shares a few pieces of advice that came from his ordeal, one of which was his idea of “putting on the kindness glasses.” He shared that he had been so touched and strengthened by the little gestures of others trying to help him as ALS reduced his capabilities. Whether it was cutting his food or picking up a pencil, it was the “small actions” that meant so much to Bruce. He shares that the disease opened his eyes to the many individuals that are struggling every day, with pain, illness, injury, disability, etc. Finally in the video he shares that we should NEVER underestimate how “a little kindness goes a long way.”
Somehow these words, this small video clip, are central in my mind as I reflect on the challenges facing all of us across the globe. What can I do about ISIS? What is my role in eastern Ukraine? How am I helping stop the spread of Ebola? All questions that seem “answer-less.” Well Bruce’s encouragement does come to mind, and it has hit me that maybe my response to all of these “bigger than life “ crises is to “put on the kindness glasses” in my day to day life. Maybe, just maybe, I can make a little difference in my little world. Maybe it could be in helping an older passenger on my flight this morning to LA lift her roller bag into the overhead compartment. Maybe it’s hailing the rental car bus and giving a family a hand getting all of their things from the curb into the van. Possibly it’s helping a foreign couple with directions to the train connecting concourses in Atlanta. Now I know these are all travel specific, but all three “moments” occurred just this morning as I flew from Atlanta to LA.
As I close I think back to my friend Bruce and am strengthened and encouraged (again) by his thoughts and comments and my memories of those days together. He is so right to encourage all of us to “put on the kindness glasses.” We can all take small actions, probably every day, where someone else just needs a little kindness. The world is SO filled with so much hate and pain and strife and loss and loneliness that it is a clear understatement to say that “the world needs a little kindness!”
p.s. one smile from the summer came from the ALS “ice bucket challenge.” What a phenomenon! I had the “pleasure,” to not only be challenged but to share that challenge with three other dear friends that included three ices buckets being poured over my head by my dear daughter Marie. I will keep that video for another day, ha!!