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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Ordinary People & Intentional Acts of Kindness

I’m wrapping up a week in Illinois which is the longest stretch of time I’ve spent here in I honestly cannot remember how long. The first part of the trip got underway with a human resources conference in down town Chicago. 22,000 HR professionals attended this conference which is put on by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). This was my first time attending the SHRM Conference and I’m extremely grateful I had the opportunity to attend and hear keynote speakers Adam Grant, Sheryl Sandberg and Oscar Munoz. Sandberg’s book, Lean In, inspired me to lean in to grad school. As a human resources professional, it was a gift to step out of the day-to-day and re-ground myself. Actually, it was a gift as a human - - the very first word of my chosen profession.

Some of the sessions are common sense reminders that we can lose sight of in the hustle and bustle of the grind. Like, walk around and get to know your people. Give them your full attention. Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines, spoke of the importance of efficiency and safety regulations and empowering employees to still do right by the customers by demonstrating care and compassion.

After the conference concluded on Wednesday, I walked out of McCormick Place and into a cab to Union Station. It was clear when I entered the cab, that the driver was not having a good day. “I lost $500.” He muttered. I asked how this happened and he told me how while on State Street in Chicago, a man in his 30s walked into his cab. The cab driver told him to watch where he was going and the man reacted by walking up to the cab, pulling the drive out of the cab and punching him in the head. A security guard witnessed this and the police arrived after the assailant walked away into the busy streets of Chicago. It wasn’t until the cab driver went to produce his ID from his shirt pocket that he realized these had slipped out during the ensuing melee. Fortunately, the driver spotted his ID and credit cards on the ground but his $485 in cash was nowhere to be found. “Insult to injury.” I sympathized. The man remarked how crazy a world we were living in - - I couldn’t disagree with that.

“I guess that’s why you guys have these conferences.” The taxi driver said, “I can’t even imagine the things that must go on in the workplace.” And then told me of how when he began driving a cab, his fellow colleagues were not kind to him - - an African American among immigrants. Before long, Union Station rolled into view and I offered to hop out curb side across the street. I tipped generously, but when it’s an inexpensive cab ride, this doesn’t translate as one would hope. I met the driver at the trunk of the cab where he wrestled my small, but jam packed, suitcase out and set it on the ground. We exchanged a look and the man’s eyes looked a bit sad, he then took me by surprise by stepping in for a hug. This surprised me. And, although I have been told my hugging skills could use some work, I did my best. The rest of the day, I thought about the simple act of kindness.

And, as if reinforcing this thought, my Instragram account was followed by the “I’ll be There Project” which, as it turns out, is “a movement to inspire ordinary people to create hope through intentional acts of kindness.” I looked at their feed and saw this photo with the following caption:

“… as I got off the subway I noticed a young man in a blue hat ask a mother with a stroller if she needed help getting up the stairs. As New Yorkers, we see and do this often, but what was even more special about this was that the young man and the mother hugged before walking away in their separate directions. What would our world look like if we all looked out for each other like this? What would our culture be like if instead of just rushing to get what we want and need, we helped those behind us get up the stairs too? I want that world for us and as soon as this cold goes away, I'm going to keep fighting for it. Find someone who could use some of your love today and give it unconditionally.”

Andrea and I used to have a friend who said, on more than one occasion, “I’m a good person.” You’ll notice the past tense there – we used to have this friend. Turns out if someone has to tell you they’re a good person, you may want to question this. How do they act? Are they genuinely kind? Are they able to be a friend and give, not just receive? Are they able to forgive when you have a lapse and aren’t quite the person you want to be?

Be a good and kind person this week.

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