I was driving down the Florida Turnpike at 70 mph. Palm trees lined the side of the road, a lavender sunset displayed behind them, and Will Reagan on the radio. I should have been enjoying such a lovely ride home, but instead I was stewing over an incident at work. Like many times when a personal interaction doesn’t go as planned, I found myself replaying the conversation mentally, but in my head I always said something clever, when in reality I had remained dumbly silent. So as I contemplated a conversation in my mind that never actually occurred, I baked in my frustration over having been treated rudely.
For the third day in a row women at work had acted condescending to me, and as I sat in my truck going over the scenario again I felt the Lord pulling at my heart. As if grabbing the string of a balloon, He pulled me back down to earth, working to calm my spirit, and He whispered to me a motto I actually lived by.
Kill them with kindness, He said.
And I knew that was the thing to do.
I don’t know about you, but I frequently encounter people who just seem to hate life. They’re the ones with the sour look on their face, the sighs that say “why are you bothering me,” and the rolling eyes that proclaim they’d rather be anywhere but where they currently are. I’m not sure why, but when I see these kinds of obviously unhappy individuals it’s like I get excited. A part of me says “game on!” When I meet someone with a grumpy disposition it’s like I yearn to make them smile. I want them to be compelled to be happy when I’m around, and so begins a journey to squeeze a smirk of a smile from a sourpuss. Challenge accepted.
I always think back to a particular situation I encountered like this. At a hospital where I worked there was a lady in the kitchen who just seemed to hate life. She was always frowning, and if you tried to ask for some food she would look up at you with glaring eyes that made it seem like you asked for her firstborn child. She always looked so put upon, so frustrated, and like she would rather be anywhere than there. I’m not sure about you, but for me it’s nice to be served with a smile. It makes me feel good when I encounter a friendly person at a drive-thru, or a kind voice on the phone. A smile goes a long way, but I understand you can’t always get what you want in life. Still, in this situation I simply felt bad for this woman. She was obviously unhappy. So I decided to try and turn her day around.
It probably took about six months of consistent, friendly banter before I coaxed a half, upturned smirk from her lips. Months of conversation, jokes, smiles, and honestly interested questions about her day occurred before I saw a glint of cheer in her eyes when I engaged her on a friendly level. In the end she would always smile when she saw me, give me an extra portion of fries, and ask about my kids. She’d go back to frowning as I walked away, but it made me feel good to draw a smile from her face.
She ended up quitting the job she obviously didn’t enjoy within the next year, and I only found out when I arrived in anticipation of our weekly interaction, but instead found a new, smiling face in her place. The interesting part, though, came about a year later when I was leaving the local grocery store. As I pushed a cart of groceries and little girls to my van I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me. I turned and was surprised to see a full set of shiny, white teeth beaming at me across the lot. It was my long lost, lunch buddy, and she grinned ecstatically as she came towards me. We chatted for a while, and she updated me on her current life. The most surprising part came when she hugged me goodbye. An honest to goodness, affectionate hug.
What if I had countered her grumpy countenance with indifference? What if I had seen her as a lost cause? It seems to me most angry people are simply unhappy, and what’s wrong with trying to inject a sliver of kindness into their day? It doesn’t always work, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. It doesn’t mean I’ll repay bad treatment with bad treatment of my own.
I’ll kill them with kindness.
And so that’s what I’ve been doing. So far I’ve managed to muscle some smiles from the sourpusses, and even coax laughter from the perpetually ill. Challenge accepted. You know, making frowny people smile isn’t the sole purpose of my task. It’s just tying to shine a little light in a dark room. There’s a lot of hurting people in this world. Sometimes that hurt seeps right out of them and is visible in their interactions with others. Not always, but sometimes. So if I can try to pour kindness on someone who’s only seen unkindness then maybe I’m doing this world a little good. I gotta try anyway.