We are all damaged. I broke my hand some time ago and had to wear a cast. Suddenly everyone was so nice to me. No one judged me for weeks. It was lovely to be treated in such a respectful way. The last time so many people were that nice to me, I was nine months pregnant. That was many, many years ago.
Why did the way people perceive me changed so drastically? I suspect that people saw the cast and they empathized. They remembered what it feels like to break a bone or suffer a physical injury. They remembered the sound it made when it broke, the feeling of fear, nausea and sharp pain. They saw my cast, and they felt empathy.
Seeing my cast, everyone defaulted to friendliness, kindness, compassion and empathy. The way I looked, the way I dressed and the way I presented myself didn’t seem to matter. Men looked me in the eyes and asked about my hand. Then they listened—without mansplaining. That was new. Women met my gaze without comparing themselves to their perception of me. The cast seemed to act as a safety net in human interaction. People of other races treated me as kindly as they would one of their own. The cast wiped my slate clean, and I was no longer held in the bondage of mistrust or judgments of other humans. Suddenly I was merely a human. It was a beautiful experience.
When I left work one day after that, a lovely celebrity was open and kind to me. It was someone who didn’t let many within her intimate circle—that would be too risky. To my surprise, she held the elevator for me, invited me on and asked me about my injury and if I was all right. She looked me in the eye and smiled an open, friendly, caring smile. She saw me later and said hello. The difference the cast made in others’ perception of me has been profound.
Maybe people are always looking for connection, but an absence of perceptible imperfections makes the approach difficult. That would support my observation that the messier my hair is, the friendlier people are to me.
Kindness elevates others, and if we all practice it, we can elevate humanity as a whole.The fact is, I’ve been hurt much worse than that. That was just a broken finger. It wasn’t a concussion. The pain didn’t linger as it does with whiplash or muscle injury. It wasn’t as bad as an ankle sprain and not anywhere near as bad as a broken heart or broken spirit. It was nothing like having a dream crushed. It wasn’t even close to the feeling of being violated. It was just a little bone break. It hurt for a few days, but the cast gave compression to relieve the pain.
I suspect that some of those who were so nice to me were suffering much more than my cast-covered hand was. All of us have pain, worry, disappointment or injury that is invisible to others. I want all of us to realize and remember that. Kindness elevates others, and if we all practice it, we can elevate humanity as a whole.
It is my hope that we can all be a little kinder to everyone. Being open comes with risk, certainly. But it’s even more risky to live in a world without kindness. Everyone deserves to experience kindness. I commit to remember my experience and practice kindness as often as possible. I want to live in a kind world, and I want to be the change I now see.
Peace, love and kindness to all of you. Just know that you deserve it. Most of all, thank you for your openness and kindness. Now I know what you are capable of. My work has just begun.