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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pay it Forward and Other Great Books on Kindness

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a little time in an airport. It was not a good day for flying and there were many delays. Now, as inconvenient as delays are it seems that we tend to forget that said delays are not one person’s fault or generally anyone’s fault. Yet, everyone was looking for someone to blame and someone to complain to.

Here's the sad scenario that played out. When my daughter's plane delay was announced I was a little frustrated, yes. She was traveling alone for the first time and the delay served to give her something more to worry about. We worked it out and everything was fine. However, the minute a lot of people heard about the delay there was a mad rush to the ticket counter to demand that the problem be "fixed"-- even when there was absolutely nothing those poor ticket agents could do to make a plane grounded for a band of severe tornadoes leave the ground.

Everyone was worried and upset. About themselves.

As the line snaked around the corner I listened to the ticket agent make the announcement four different times that: they were fully aware that people had connections and deadlines, that they were prioritizing their efforts according to the tightest connects etc. and trying to make sure everyone would be able to make it to their final destinations with the least hassle possible. He pled with everyone to sit back down and let them call up passengers by destination so the most urgent cases could be served first. He reminded them that if they had to keep dealing with each person on a one on one basis it would take three times as long and people would inevitably miss the best window of opportunity because the ticket agents had not been able to do their jobs efficiently. It made sense to me. But oddly enough, I watched as no one, that's right, no one left the line. In fact they got more agitated.

Everyone there was so concerned about themselves they refused to step back and help the problem be solved for everyone, rather than standing in line to make sure they were dealt with first.

Why is that? Why has our society become so calloused that we can't see beyond our own lives to what might be good or helpful for someone else?

I watched those agents work steadily for the next three hours: getting yelled at yes, getting thanked for fixing things to the best of their ability, no. In fact, by the time the whole thing done the ticket agents no longer had energy left over for kindness either. They were sad and they were tired. I felt so bad for them. But apparently I was the only one. Even as I approached the counter to confirm my daughter’s landing time someone else came up to yell at them. Again.

And yes. A few people did miss the best flights because the ticket agents hadn't been able to do their jobs well. They got blamed for that as well.

So. Here are my book recommendations for the week. If you haven't read these titles, please do. There is something to be said for getting a good solid reminder of what service, Christ-like kindness and love are all about. We hear a lot about providing service in the LDS church, but I think we sometimes forget why it matters so much. I think we sometimes forget that service isn't always about ultimate self-sacrifice and it shouldn’t make us miserable. It's about being joyful and aware of each other. It's about looking for the best ways to be happy through helping and lifting someone else toward happiness as well. I can't help but think that whole airport scenario could have gone so differently if even half the people would have been a little more concerned about each other and a little less concerned about themselves.

Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde This is a fictional book about finding a way to change the world through kindness.

Call to Arms by Chris Bratseth, Erik Hanson, Brad Stokes and Val Litwin, and

Cool to be Kind by Val Litwin, Chris Bratseth, Brad Stokes and Erik Hanson

These two books are written by four young men who have dubbed themselves the Kindness Crew and set out on a roaming tour of Extreme Kindness. They show you how to find ways to have your own kindness experiences.

52 Weeks of Fun Family Service by Merrilee Boyack This is a book of decent ideas on how to incorporate service into our families more.

The Kindness Handbook by Jeri-Lynn Johnson This is an older title but I love the specifics it gives. This book gives ideas about what you can say and do for just about any situation that you might find yourself needing to reach out to somebody in.

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