Friday, November 5, 2010

KeFactors Friday: Survival of the fittest - Good Samaritans

A friend of mine had me laughing until I was hoarse about a “who’s on first?” encounter he had with an elderly man and a flat tire. My friend stepped up to help him change the tire and the old man kept repeating, “I gotta go to the bank and cash a check, to pay you for your kindness.”

“I gave him three outs,” my friend recounted. “I suggested he pay it forward by donating money to a church, telling someone he was helped by an alumnus from this school [he was wearing a college shirt at the time], or just give some money to the local children’s hospital. If there was a karmic debt, I didn’t have to be the one to receive the payment.”

The news is filled with stories of cruelty, not just the usual “if it bleeds, it leads” type of crimes, but ones in which insensitivity reigned supreme.

More than ever this year, I’ve been asked to speak on workplace civility: these are minor, banal cruelties — speaking loudly on cell phones while colleagues are trying to work, not helping one’s team when workloads grow heavy, not returning phone calls or emails, indulging in verbal abuse of subordinates, stealing someone else’s food from the breakroom fridge.

In short, putting one’s own needs and interests above another’s.
How do you convince someone else to be kind, to empathize with others? You can’t. But consider these things:

• Unless your life has been an abysmal horror, most of us have benefited at one time or another from an act of compassion. If you thought about it, you could probably build a quite a list.
• People forget names, dates, maybe even faces, but they never forget how they were treated—with cruelty, or with kindness. Survivor stories inevitably include accounts of kindness that border on the heroic.

• Everyone has a lousy day, or month, or week. The best way to overcome that agitated feeling is to be kind to someone else in need, even if it’s opening a door.

And, as my friend said, if there is a karmic debt to be paid, you can suggest repayment—but it doesn’t have to come to you. That’s the real gift of kindness.

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