While the broader economy struggles, Silicon Valley sits apart. Things are red-hot. With Facebook’s impending IPO, the crop from 2011, and the current venture climate: wealth is in the air. Lots of talk of buying condos, building homes, new cars, and fancy vacations abound. It’s been interesting to see how people treat newfound wealth and the luxuries they choose to indulge in. As a (very, very) small beneficiary of this macro-windfall, this also applies to how I’ve been thinking too much about my small indulgences.
As is visible in my last post, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head. Maybe a good thing. Thinking about what matters and the “why’s” of various stuff. A few weeks ago, John Lilly shared a link of this video of Mo Cheeks, the then coach of the Blazers coming to the aid of a young girl who had stumbled, and then had trouble getting out the words to the national anthem. It’s a pretty remarkable video. At 1:56 in, that look of gratitude and appreciation is amazingly, amazingly powerful. I get choked up every time I see the video, and at 1:56, it overwhelms.
Kindness. It’s what Mo Cheeks showed. And, as I’ve been reflecting on this new decade of my life, on what matters, and what I’ve learned, it’s one of the things that I’ve kept coming back to. I don’t know much, but I do know that kindess has been one of the best luxuries in my life. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s potentially one of the most important things about our humanity.
I grabbed lunch with my brother today. I wasn’t especially hungry and since I only nibbled at my food, I had this huge takeaway container. On my way home, off a side street, there was an (apparently) homeless man, sitting on his sleeping bag, hunched over some Fritos. I saw him, and as I’ve become trained to, I quickly looked away and kept walking. Then I registered that I was holding food. I thought about it for a second and then doubled back and asked him if the kind of food I had was OK/if he wanted the leftovers. He was grateful and thanked me. As I handed over the food we made eye contact. I saw this weary, weathered look and tired gratitude in his face. As I walked away, I found myself with a bit of that same overwhelmed feeling I mentioned from the above video. I felt incredible. Not because I’m some great person for giving away something as trivial as leftovers (in fact, I’m actually pretty callous towards the poverty I see, and resent myself for it). I felt so happy because I was lucky enough to be in a position to able to show a tiny, minuscule act of kindness to someone. I felt blessed. I was filled with a certain love for that guy. Maybe love isn’t the right word – was it compassion or empathy? Either way, it reminded me that when I have that feeling is when I’m among the happiest that I ever am. That feeling is an absolute high.
When I’ve thought about this, it reminds of the even simpler kindnesses. Just smiling at a stranger. I think that’s a kindness. It’s being gentle with each other. Holding a door open. Helping someone pick up something they spill. Stopping to ask if someone needs directions. Helping a stranger park their car when they’re struggling to back in. Carrying groceries. Or again, even just the simplest of all, smiling at a stranger. I think the world can often be a ruthless, rough place. We’ve all got so much going on. So many pressures. Obligations. Fears. Hopes. Just so much. And that simple act of smiling, or these other kindnesses, is that incredibly powerful way of being gentle with each other.
So many things in my life go back to my mom. I wonder if this is one of those too. I remember once long ago, my brother said to me that our mom has this way about her, that makes people want to help her. Maybe everyone thinks that their mom has this inordinately kind face and demeanor, and if so, add me to the list. But I think my mother is one of my best examples of that softness and kindness in how you can carry yourself.
Grace is one of my favorite concepts and attributes. I’m sort of obsessed with it. There’s this beautiful grace in kindness.
So there it is. Kindness. The best, most valuable, luxury there is. I hope to indulge a lot more in 2012. I encourage you to do the same.