Choose kindness

Let me tell you about a brief interaction that just happened in a park in Santa Clara.

A man was sitting on a park bench when a mother appeared in the distance, pushing a stroller in which sat a small girl crying her eyes out.

Her mom, well at least I assume it was her mom, looked tired and exasperated.

Her daughter seemed unable or unwilling to stop screaming, no matter what mom said or did.


But then as they pulled level with the man, something interesting happened.

Instead of ignoring them or acting all grouchy at the noisy intrusion into his moment of peace, he smiled and waved at the little girl, and said “Hello”.

Instantly, instantly, her crying stopped, her eyes riveted to the man who’d spoken to her.

Mom chuckled appreciatively.

Peace returned – well, for another 50 yards or so at least – as the two continued down the pathway.

But the effect of this really quite small act by the man was indisputable.

Simply connecting with the tiny tot was enough to distract her, or comfort her, or surprise her (who knows what?) from her determined efforts to sob for her country.

I wonder if you recognise, as I did at that moment, that there are probably dozens of times a day when we have a choice about how we’ll react to the things that happen around us?

If someone pushes in front of you, it’s easy to get exasperated and huffy, but possible (although less easy) to just let it go, or even smile good-naturedly.

Small acts of kindness make the world a tiny bit better, and are generally good for the kind person too.

Perhaps I should have asked the man in the park how he felt when the small girl’s tears dried up, but I really didn’t need to.

It was me.

14 thoughts on “Choose kindness

  1. Great image Jon! Have you thought whether Moodnudges has potential to include actual images and colour perhaps?

      1. Thanks Claire and Diana. Including images in the emails means they’d need to be produced as HTML (like a web page) rather than in plain text, as they currently are. We put the images in the online posts, but not in the emails (yet).

        It’s certainly possible to use, and something we’ll definitely think about. Thank you for pointing it out!

  2. A lovely post Jon, thank you. I can definitely relate to this, how a moment can change and transform my own mood and perhaps the mood of others. We are all connected, thanks for the gentle reminder.

  3. I now have an ally in the form of a young puppy. She is a great icebreaker in situations such as the one you describe, Jon, and our joint strategy of distraction/consolation usually works. Sometimes this two-pronged approach only has short-term benefits but the outcome for me is usually always uplifting. I think there is a great deal to be said for putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Best wishes.

  4. Did this happen in the UK or the US? When I’m in the UK these days, I don’t speak to children any more, unless I’m with my own son, for fear of being suspected of pedophilia. But you’re right, and perhaps that’s what we’ve lost, the simple possibility of making a well-meant intervention. Children gain security and confidence from knowing there are other adult eyes and ears providing tangents from present reality. I’ve always felt that in raising my own children, one in Hungary to the age of six, and the other in the UK to the age of eight, and from working recently with young learners in Hungarian schools. Both had screaming fits in parks, and the Hungarians, even complete strangers, were skilled at providing distractions without me asking. They saw it as their natural role in society. In the UK, however, no-one ever offered.

    Perhaps it’s one reason why early socialisation is more successful in countries with universal Kindergarten provision from the age of three. At that age, children are naturally open and interactive to their surroundings and the people around them, which is why it is so tragic when they become victims of the abuse of this trust.

      1. I know very much what you mean Andrew about the sad need to be over-wary as a man, and I too noticed that in the UK – more so than I have in the USA.

        How sad that nobody in the UK offered a helping hand when your two got a bit antsy, and yet then Hungarians did.

        Really interesting to add this perspective.

  5. This is such a wonderful story. Would like to share a wonderful moment that just happened to me, minutes after reading this short article.

    I went to the restroom and as I was washing my hands our cleaning lady came in and said “Hi! How are you?”
    I answered back smiling: “Hello! I am well, how are you?”
    She said: “Oh, I am just great, wonderful!”
    Then I told her that she should share with others also, when she said sure.
    Came to me and gave a really warm and honest hug.

    Wow, this is just making my day, reinforcing that fact that the impact you can have on people can be a brief moment in time. 🙂

    All the best to everyone!

    1. What a fantastic addendum Roxana-Maria. Thank you so much. Brilliant to get a hug from your cleaning lady. Please give her one back from us all next time you see her.

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