Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kindness as Deviance

Those blood tests that require you to fast from after 8PM? No problem here, I go to bed at 8. After having the test yesterday, Joe and I decided to treat ourselves to breakfast out. There's a hotel that has a nice buffet breakfast - and buffets are good when you've 'fasted' since 8 PM!! So we got our table and then I headed over to where the fellow was making omelets, Joe went off to make toast. There were a group of, primarily women, who were placing their orders. I was asked for mine and I ordered two orders of two eggs over medium. Just after I ordered another woman arrived, rushed, and was greeted by the others waiting.

I asked her if she was with that group, she looked startled that I spoke to her but said that she was. I said that, if she wanted she could go ahead of me so that she'd be able to eat with the others. She was even more startled by the offer. She said that she shouldn't but that she would take me up on the offer. the guy doing the eggs smiled and nodded at me and then took her order.

Then. They all started talking about how incredibly nice I was. They talked to me and about me at the same time. They were all a bit shocked at the offer and we really impressed by my incredible kindness.

Now, I hesitated writing this. I don't want to write about having been NICE. I am not writing this so people will think WHAT A NICE GUY DAVE IS. Or, alternately, DAVE SURE LIKES TO BRAG ABOUT BEING NICE. I'm writing to make a different point.

This encounter kind of saddened me.

I didn't think I was being particularly nice and I sure as hell wasn't being kind. I thought that what I did was unexceptional.

Joe and I talked about this over breakfast and we realised that we've come to a point, in how we are all with each other, that thoughtfulness (for that's all it was - it wasn't nice and it wasn't kind, it was just thoughtful) is exceptional. Thinking about the needs of another before one's own needs is part of how we should just be with each other - isn't it?

It's tremendously sad that we've come to the point that a single act of ordinary human thoughtfulness is a shock and surprise.

Then, when they were leaving, I heard one of the women say, 'I suppose that disabled people are used to waiting and being patient.'

They explained away my 'niceness' and my 'kindness' as something deviant that comes from my essential deviance. It couldn't be something expected of them.

It couldn't be something that they, the truly important, should be expected to do.

When it comes the point to having to reason away 'thoughtfullness' ... I wonder if all is lost.


Unknown said...

I got where you were going with it from the beginning. It saddens me also that people are often shocked at manners, common courtesies and the like. But then it enrages me that it was just assumed that b/c of your disability you developed a moral compass. As though, had you been "average" you would have behaved differently. Argh.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

from what I see in my daily interactions people tend to use kindness more or less based on their own experiences.

My mom is a preschool-teacher caring every day for ca. 20 five and six year old kids and trying to teach them basic knowledge. In a line at the grocery store she sometimes lets people with fewer items get in position before us if we have more items in our cart. This does not apply to people only buying cigarettes or alcohol also no to people she knows are constantly obnouxious. We live in a small city...

I am looking out and try to help people that look tired and I guess are exhausted or need help. But there is always the question if they want my help...

My dad sometimes tells me, that I am too polite. He is always thinking about himself first. I think his childhood has something to do with him being a sort of "lonely fighter".

Kindness is something that is not taken lightly nowadays nor is it given lightly sometimes. But I am glad it still exists and its a unique part of people.


PS. Still havent finished my thoughts on your "help put on my shoes and socks" post. But I have to admit that there are things I simple can not do because of smells. All my life smells are something I have to deal with. And I can help putting clothes on a baby but changing nappies makes me vomit and sometimes I even can not smell myself. I guess my oversensitivness has even piked becuase of all the hospital smells I had to endure in my younger years.

joanne said...

thanks David, thoughtfulness is a pre-requisite to being kind. I often feel that our "pre-requisite" has become self-centered and self-serving. As for the patient "thing"....well, wasn't that perdictable and sad? My favourite was a local priest, after finding out my vocation, admirably relayed that this must be my path as I am obviously patient. My response: of course I am patient...I'm still married.

Anonymous said...

Makes me think those people having the conversation maybe aren't the sort of people I think are nice. But I bet they have a set of values that makes them nice people by their values. Strange.

Jeannette said...

I was about to post something very similar to what Anonymous said at 15:12, but she (or he) said it better than I would have.
I read this post in the morning, and have been thinking about it all day, and it keeps occurring to me that it could simply be that those women are jerks. It could be one leading the pack, or it could be birds of a feather flocking together (to mix metaphors), but whatever the reason, their actions and words are those of jerks.
Don't judge the rest of the world by them. There's already enough to deal with.

Rickismom said...

Isn't it a sad commentary on society that simple acts of kindness/honesty/ thoughtfullness are found to not be the norm??