Kindness matters

I was walking home from the bus stop yesterday, as I always do, in the crisp, cold air that pierces my lungs and reddens my cheeks. My school day prior to the walk home was average; it wasn’t a typically extraordinary day, but it wasn’t terrible either. It was just a day.

Sitting on the cold leather seats of the bus after a long day of school, surrounded by angsty middle schoolers that blast terrible music out of their speakers, I was ready to be home. Stepping off the bus and being hit with the crisp air, I was even more ready to be home. I’ve been walking home from the bus stop for years, so it’s a pretty mundane and typical routine. On my walk yesterday, something a little less than routine happened.

I was a couple of houses away from my own when I heard the low rumble of an engine and loud, booming music that rivaled the volume at a concert. I felt that car in my chest and immediately became uneasy. I nervously glanced behind me and noticed that I was the only person on the sidewalk, which was even more unsettling than the approaching car. I picked up my pace and stuffed my hands into my coat pockets, trying to warm my frigid, nervous self.

The car slowed until I looked the three teenagers that occupied it in the eyes. After the brief moment of silent interaction, the words came and hit hard. They shouted “F*** you” over the booming beats of their music and sped off. I was shaken and surprised because I live in a relatively calm neighborhood where each house occupies multiple dogs and children. After they sped away, I quickened my pace even more and longed for the comfort of my house where profanities aren’t spoken to me on a complete whim.

I was inches away from my house and was trying to shake the shock out of my system. I don’t particularly enjoy being yelled at for no reason, and it’s particularly scary when it happens so out of the blue from a complete stranger. I saw my front door and wanted to run inside and shake off the day and the event that just happened, but I saw the same car again. The uneasiness that overtook my being a mere minute earlier quickly returned, and I worried that something worse than profanities would happen this time.

Fortunately for my anxious and overwhelmed self, the car just drove past, and I was able to make it safely inside my warm and comforting house. As soon as I stepped inside, I felt less vulnerable, less alone.

I thought about my walk home from the bus stop and the unkind words that were spoken to me for the rest of the day. They hit me hard, mainly because I would never think of speaking so harshly to someone I don’t know, let alone anyone of importance in my life. I didn’t know the stranger that shouted, and he didn’t know me. The fact that I was spoken to–or rather, shouted at–in such an unkind way by a complete stranger was disheartening.

I don’t think humans realize the significance and the impact they have on others. The way you talk about yourself and others can directly affect someone else’s mood; speaking with kindness will never do any harm to anyone around you. Throughout the day, I hear so many negative words and they have weight– more than some people realize, I think. The two unkind words spoken to me walking home from the bus stop slumped my shoulders and dampened my heart. It made me wish that our world only consisted of warm words and thoughtful interactions because after the harsh snippet of a sentence I heard I only wanted to be blanketed in nurturing words.

I think the most saddening part of the stranger’s words was the very fact that it was a stranger. He had no idea what kind of effect his actions or words could have had on me; it was such a quick interaction that it probably had no meaning to the stranger. He probably didn’t think twice about yelling profanities out of his car window, but it had meaning to me.

I value words and the weight behind them. I value kindness and the positive effect it has. I value everything that embodies a kind, thoughtful human.

And the two seconds that it took to receive two unkind words only strengthen those values I have. It made me so happy that I was raised to be respectful and kind, and especially glad that I appreciate words and the depth and power they hold. But it also deeply saddened me, for not everyone knows the power of kindness and the impact it can have on so many people.

Kindness will never be underrated. I will always prioritize it in my interactions and can only hope that everyone–even strangers in loud cars in the middle of an unhappening neighborhood–will speak with as much kindness as they want to receive.