A scenario and then a question.
This is what happened:
I discovered, by accident, that sitting on the right side of the WheelTrans bus is warmer than sitting on the left side of the bus. Typically, because I'm picked up very early, I'm first on the bus, so I sit on the left side. This winter has had very cold days and I've had fairly cold rides up to work. There is a heater down by my feet, running alongside the side near the floor, but it doesn't seem to do the job. This may be because it's very early and the bus hasn't warmed up yet and the heater is still shaking off it's own morning cold.
But one day I got on the bus and someone was in that place. I sat then on the right side. Surprise! The heater up front blows warm air back to where I'm sitting and I felt it's warmth the whole ride up to work. I've requested that seat ever since. This morning when I got on the bus, I requested that seat, explaining to the driver that I like to be in front of the heater. He was good about it and strapped down my chair while we chatted about the weather and the cold temperatures that we've been experiencing in Toronto.
Soon after we left, heading to pick someone else up, we stopped at a light. The driver said, 'I've got several heating vents up here, would you like me to turn one back towards you?' I said that that would be nice. He leaned over quite far, turned the vent towards me and we drove off. I had the warmest ride I've ever had in the winter on the bus. By far.
Here's my question:
I often wonder what makes people cruel. Why people do mean things to one another. Why anger is so close to the surface for so many people and in so many interactions. What causes that? These are undoubtedly good questions. But what I've never asked myself, until today, riding on the bus, feeling warm on a cold winter day - what makes people kind? What was there about this guy that spurred him to think of a way to do something nice, spurred him to ask first before just doing it, and then go out of his way, and nearly out of his reach, to make it happen. What spurred him to do something that wouldn't have been noticed if it wasn't done or wasn't offered. What part of his mind or heart makes doing an act of thoughtful kindness so simple and easy? How did he get this way? What makes people kind?
I notice that there are a lot of people who are doing the 'pay it forward' thing on line. They are going to do 5 acts of random kindness to five people who pledge to do the same. I haven't signed on to this scheme, even though I think the motivation behind it is a good thing. The thing I'm talking about isn't 'pay it forward' because those are intentional acts of kindness - and that's good, I'm not down on that at all, kindness of any kind is a good thing. The difference is what makes it such that someone doesn't need to sign up to be kind they just are. What makes it such that someone's impulse is to kindness? Is there a way to develop or strengthen the impulse to kindness?
I don't know.
But that's who I want to be. It is not who I am, but it's who I want to be. I want kindness not to be a behaviour I perform but, instead, I want kindness to be the way that I live.
This is the kind of thing that goes on in my mind on the way to work in the morning.
So, what do you think? What makes people naturally kind, how do they become that way? Can one develop kindness as a lifestyle?