Thursday, April 12, 2012

• "K" is for Kindness

My father
When my father lived in a home for the elderly, one of the men, a former colonel, relentlessly taunted another man. Long-ago accomplishments omnipresent in his mind, the colonel berated the poor fellow for being uneducated, blue collar, and shorter in stature.

Sick of the bullying, I spoke firmly to the colonel one day. "Anyone can apply themselves in school or rise in the workplace, but the true test of a man is his ability to be kind." (Yeah, I climb on a soapbox when I'm angry.)

You guessed it: Instead of recognizing my wisdom, the colonel completely ignored me.

Despite my self-righteous anger, I think I was right. It takes wisdom, compassion, and—at times—restraint, to be consistently kind. One of my favorite fictional characters is Atticus Finch, the father in To Kill a Mockingbird. From his children to the mentally challenged neighbor to the Black community, Finch treated everyone with unfailing kindness and respect.

Me and Honey
As a pet sitter, kindness and patience are two of the most important attributes I can bring. The first thing I do during any pet sit is sit quietly with the animals. Some are nervous, but if they allow it, I stroke them. In a soft voice I explain that I'll be staying with them for a few days. Everything will go on as usual. I won't let anything bad happen to them. Their "mom and dad" will come back soon.

Note that I say that kindness and patience are the two of the most important attributes I can bring. Kindness is my natural inclination. But after several days in someone else's home, I can have moments of frustration. I can't find a can opener. I run out of clean underwear. A dog scratches me with long nails. The cat wants in, the cat wants out. In. Out.

It's more important than ever—then—to be kind. Animals have a reason for everything they do. Everything. I'm not a trainer, so I can be clueless about why an animal behaves as it does, and it's not my responsibility to change its behavior. My responsibility is to be kind.

Isn't it funny that it all comes down to the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would like to be treated. With kindness.

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