Kindness Has No Color
Have you ever met someone who is a loner? They are, at best, a socialized introvert and prefer being alone to being around people. Well, that describes a part of me. I enjoy being with people yet very much cherish my alone time. Recently a dear friend of mine, Jan, who is like a sister, decided to throw a birthday party for me in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. At first, I was shocked and said no. That’s okay. Don’t make a big deal about my birthday. I’m good. Well, she insisted and told me that she was inviting ten friends that she wanted me to meet. I kept telling her no and trying to find ways out of it. I even called her sister, Julie, who has been my best friend for over 28 years, and asked her to talk Jan out of hosting a party. She did her best to change her sister’s mind, but Jan was not hearing it.
So finally I gave in and, in the spirit of Shonda Rhimes' book – Year of Yes, I decided to stop resisting someone wanting to do something nice for me and just embrace it.
As I began to examine why I said no, it hit me that I had become comfortable staying in my own little bubble. Only coming out when necessary to shake hands, smile really big, look happy, and give speeches. That’s what I do. Wind me up and off I go. Just like a Jack-in-the-Box.
However, I realized that on many levels I had zipped up my mind to really authentically connecting with others because my world was safe.
Now, as I reflect on the real reason I said no to Jan throwing me a party, I realize it was because I wondered 'why in the world would a black man be the recipient of a white person’s kindness?' Boom. I said it. Did I go there? Yes, I did. I mean why would she go out of her way to have her friend, Kelli, open up her French estate that the she had just built in Rancho Santa Fe for a birthday party for me. Little ole me from the ghetto of Buffalo, New York. Something in me wouldn’t and couldn’t receive this agenda-less act of kindness.
I didn’t feel worthy. I am living in a country where my gender, race, and religion are under attack. I wasn’t ready to have to put on a mask and pretend that everything was alright in the world. However, what I realized was this party had nothing to do with the story I had made up in my head. This party was about the difference I had made in the life of another human being who felt compelled to say thank you in the form of a first-class party.
Then it hit me in the wee hours of the morning. Kindness and respect have no color. Kindness looks beyond what side of the tracks a person has come from because it doesn’t matter. Kindness doesn’t take a break or diminish because of bigotry rhetoric. Kindness is a warm blanket on a cold winter day. Kindness gives at one’s own expense. Kindness extends a hand to pull one up into their destiny. Kindness looks beyond where a person has come from and looks at where they are going. Kindness is a light in the midst of darkness.
The night of my party I met some of the most amazing people. One couple in particular – Joe and Mel - flew in on their private jet. Then there was Candace and Cody who I talked to non-stop almost as if we had known each other for years. Jonathon, Will, Kelli, Julia, and Jen ... they all came to a party for a complete stranger because kindness doesn’t keep score. Kindness answers yes with no strings attached. Kindness is one of the most important attributes that anyone can possess.
In fact, kindness has a twin called empathy. These twin powers generate peace, concern, and listening at a deeper level. When a person empathizes with you, it’s because they listen to understand instead of respond. When a person comes from a place of kindness, it’s never about them. It’s totally about you.
In my opinion, kindness is gender neutral. It’s not something that women have over men or men over women. Kindness is a daily choice that a person makes when they wake up in the morning. Kindness is that little voice in one’s head that says before I react or respond, let me listen at a really deep level.
Kindness is bigger than hugging it out. Kindness is being intentional about how you listen when you listen. Kindness is showing value to another human being because they matter. Kindness looks for the win-win-win. We win, the customer wins, and you win. Kindness and empathy is not taught in school. It’s a quality that is learned by observation and experience. When someone is kind, it leaves an imprint on the canvas of your heart. For example, if you go to a restaurant and servers go out of their way to provide you with memorable experiences, this is kindness at the most granular level. Kindness doesn’t need to shout from the rooftop. It is quiet. Consistent. Easy.
I experienced kindness in Rancho Santa Fe from Jan and her friends who are now my friends. I am a better man as a result of this experience. Now, I want to extend the kindness to someone else.
Today, I invite you to think about how you can extend kindness to someone else with no strings attached. Go beyond what you would normally do and really begin to think about how you can add something extra special to an experience. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you really want to at the core of your being. That’s where it really makes a tremendous difference. You just don’t know what it will do for the person who is on the receiving end of your kindness.