Non Random Act
Kindness is not a payment. Kindness shouldn’t be considered as paying it forward. Kindness should expect no result.
Years ago, I worked for a school division. It was one of the best job experiences I ever had. I was a Software Configuration Specialist. My job was to configure computers for large deployments in the school division. I had to work with teachers, technicians, instructional technology experts and even students. Prior to working for the school division, I worked for Gateway as it was on its way from being “a friend in the business” to “Shuddup and buy my junk.” In my Gateway job I would help people on the sneak. I bet that somewhere right now Jeff Weitzen former CEO of Gateway is shaking his fists in the air.. saying “COHEN!!!!” Well, of course not but it is fun to think that I helped people by doing what was right over the funny business that actively put the company in a bad place. So, I go from the Gateway job (which I left because I couldn’t take their behavior) to no job. I get the job at the school division and it was amazing. The teachers had passion and purpose. These people loved their work. There were always funny stories about going for a drink after a hard day in the classroom but when I think about it, they were mostly happy.
What a thankless job so it seems. The kids don’t listen, the hours are long, the work is tedious, they have a lot of requirements to meet and there is always pressure. Kids have only one shot at being 8, 9, 10, 11 and beyond. These teachers don’t think about failure, they think about differentiation and ultimately success.
I have been away from the school division for many years but over time I have reflected about how and why the teachers were so great and why the school division was / is one of the best places to work.
I have no idea of how other school divisions behave or if there is some kind of school division culture that is pervasive across the world. My experience in the 18+ schools was that each school had some pretty clear differences but there was one thing that I could pinpoint that was the same.
There were non random acts of kindness. All of the staff seemed focused on education but education included a natural practice of kindness. My technical partners had assigned schools that they would go to for service. Chris would make his rounds to the schools that he knew would have “the goods” in the teachers break room early. In every school and office there was someone that brought in something to eat. It was hard to keep the weight off. There was a lot of food in all the kitchen areas and there was always someone offering.
Beyond food there was a spirit of volunteerism. Teachers and staff always seemed to volunteer for work even with a full plate. Interestingly enough, parents joined in to volunteer. The school didn’t have enough money to buy electronic tests, someone would chip in and buy them. The school couldn’t afford a piece of technology, someone dropped the thing the school needed off. The schools would get donations and give donations all the time. These were all non random acts of kindness. Teachers always pulled money out of their own pockets to pay for what they needed and help others.
Through all of the stress of being a teacher or administrator, they still found ways to be kind to each other, the students and parents. Where else could you go to work and get the responsibility for a product that you couldn’t possibly really be responsible for, get held accountable for that product, get yelled at by everyone involved? It isn’t that teaching isn’t a thankless job. It is that teaching is a hard job and that the spirit of kindness was at least in my case always present.
Years later I worked for the Department of Defense and believe it or not, I found non random acts of kindness were key to keeping people together through tough challenges. These acts also inspired people to be better and to work harder. It was passion and purposeful work.
The Choice in The Moment
I am sitting in the airport today coming home from a really interesting conference on one of my favorite subjects Knowledge Management. A woman sat down behind me totally drunk. She placed her head on my shoulder and was telling me her life story in the language of whatever drinks she consumed. People are looking at her. We have many choices in our lives and they are all in a moment in time. We can choose to do something kind and of course we can do something else. I know she is going to Seattle and that her troubles paved an easy path to some toxic behavior. She apologized for using me as “pillow” but she didn’t move and I didn’t make her. She stopped talking and fell asleep. I will wake her up when the plane is boarding. I believe we have an opportunity in every choice to be kind. I don’t have an expectation of anything but good things seem to happen.
Earlier today I was getting on the bus coming back from the car rental place. The bus drivers name is Keith. A man cut me off and got on the bus. I stepped back and let him go. Keith held is hand up and said “no more folks can get on here” I waved and said “alright.” So, you may wonder how I know Keith’s name.
The man who cut me off had a friend that was behind me that also could not get on the bus. When Keith told me that I couldn’t get on, it also meant that the other guy couldn’t get on. That being the case, the first man got off the bus. Keith pulled his sunglasses down a bit, leaned forward smiling and waved me on. When I got on the bus he said that he sees a lot of people in a day. He sees good and bad things all the time but he chooses to be helpful to everyone. He said ” You stepped back sir, you see it all works out, right?” I spent the rest of the ride listening to him and thanking him for his kindness.
It was a choice in the moment and we can choose to be kind. I wonder if you would consider taking a kindness challenge. When you are in a moment that you can identify that you have a choice and you could slow down time just enough to choose kindness, see what happens. I don’t have any expectations but I believe that your kindness will manifest good things in ways that we couldn’t know.
Good Luck !