Choosing Kindness

I have been reading a lot of Wayne Dyer’s books lately. Most people know the name Wayne Dyer and for those that don’t, I enjoy telling them about him and his work. Wayne was a counseling psychologist, author, and speaker. Over the course of his life, his theories and guidance for living evolved from psychology to spirituality. He was one of the special few who made psychology and spirituality accessible to the masses and inspired people – from all walks of life – to fully live and love.

I had the privilege of giving a eulogy recently at my beloved grandmother’s funeral (here is a piece I wrote about her and her influence on my life and work). She died 2 months shy of her 105th birthday. My grandma embodied love and kindness. I found myself quoting Wayne who said, “When you have the choice of being right or wrong, choose kind.” My grandma not only always chose kind, she chose love. She so embodied this concept, that all who knew her lit up when she was around. She smiled, hugged, and kissed all with the same warmth, love, and kindness. People often commented how wonderful, and unusual, to see her great grandchildren be so connected to her, who were anywhere from 82 to 99 years younger than her. It was because she led with kindness and love.

I am remembering another one of Wayne’s important lessons. He wrote about being on a panel where people where talking the decline in customer service and how hard it was to get good service. Wayne said he took an opposing view, telling the panel and audience that he never gets poor service and in fact always gets good service. He went on to explain that we get what we expect and we can choose to act with kindness towards those who are serving us. Kindness, he said, brings compassion and understanding to the human that is serving you which results with good service.

Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to share this lesson with our kids when they were getting passports pictures at the post office. At the dinner table my kids described the grumpy man who was snapping at them and after waiting for a long time said they needed to come back. We talked with the kids about what they thought this man’s life was like – his daily work, his home life, and whatever he could possibly be dealing with. They were able to consider possibilities for who he was as a person beyond his behavior and smiled when they talked about how they could handle the situation, and him, differently when they returned the next day.

I am this writing while flying on a Southwest Airlines plane back home after two days of work and speaking out of town. I was, and am, eager to get home to my family. I have been working intentionally on not rushing and allowing enough time to get places. I did a good job this morning. I dropped off the rental car with enough time to get through security and order breakfast to go on the plane. Somewhere along the way of boarding I dropped my utensils needed to eat my eggs. One flight attendant said I could go out and find them but when I got to the front of the plane the lead flight attendant said I could not leave the plane because I was holding up boarding. I asked if she had a fork and she said she did not and then said something I didn’t quite hear. I took a deep breath and smiled and said okay and returned to my seat. It was a bit difficult because I didn’t think it was a big deal to get past a few people and I was hungry.

When I returned I told the original flight attendant that I wasn’t allowed off the plane. She immediately returned with her personal spoon for me to have. Five minutes later the lead flight attendant returned with 3 forks and said, “I told you I would have the captain get you a fork.” I hadn’t heard her say it or I unconsciously dismissed it. I looked up and the two captains were waving to me with a thumbs up and smiling. I smiled and gave them a thumbs up back.

I immediately thought of Wayne. I had a choice when I was told I couldn’t get off the plane. I chose kindness and understanding and later the generosity I was shown on the plane was beyond what I could have expected. I truly got “A-List” service when I least expected it. As Wayne taught us, we CAN choose our actions, we CAN choose how to handle our emotions, and we CAN choose how we interact with people. My grandma knew this.

I am inspired daily by the love and kindness of my grandmother and the life and messages of Wayne Dyer. When you have a choice of being right or wrong, choose kind. Lead with kindness and love. Imagine what our world would be like if we all did this. I challenge you to be kind in all situations and see what happens. You will be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. I just got off the plane and the lead Southwest airlines flight attendant smiled and gave me a high five when I thanked her. I thanked the captains who both fist bumped me and told me it was their pleasure and thanked me for flying with them. Who knew I would be fist bumping captains today? I know my grandma and Wayne are both smiling.

This piece originally appeared on Psychology Today.