A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 15, 2014
Kindness through Connection (As in People)
Some days ago, I happened to run into a friend of mine. I hadn’t seen this friend for a number of months, and was very happy to reconnect with him. Someone was with him, someone I had never met before. I smiled my friendly smile and stepped towards this second man. He seemed a bit hesitant and taken aback, almost as if he was unsure exactly why I’d even smile at him. My chaplain antennae started twitching. I detected something, some way of being that concerned me. I softened my voice and manner and started talking to him and our mutual friend, both together.
After seating ourselves and after initial uncertainty, my new friend opened up. He and I made an instant connection, too. He told me he had been out of work for a number of months. As the months began to pile up, he became more and more discouraged. I recognized the plight and problem of the long-term unemployed: employers hesitating even to consider people who have been unemployed for a long period of time. This wasn’t under-employment, but instead unemployment, pure and simple. Feelings of uselessness, self-pity, anger, despair, depression. (Sadly, I could relate, since I have gone through similar times in my own life and experience.)
This sort of thing does not happen to me all the time, or even most of the time. But making an instant connection does happen sometimes. And when I get the feeling, the urge to talk with someone, I usually listen to that urge. And, I listen to the person, too. As I was taught, I try to journey with the person for a little while. And, I try to actively listen to the story the person brings to me, too.
After I found out what my new friend had been doing before he was “downsized,” I realized I was acquainted with an older man who had worked for decades in the same industry before his retirement. Accordingly, I told my new friend. It was marvelous to see him perk up and tentatively begin to blossom. He asked me whether I could give the retired fellow his name and number. “Certainly!” I again smiled my friendly smile at him. I cautioned that I might not see this retired man for a number of days. My new friend said that would be okay—he had been unemployed for so long, a few more days (give or take) wouldn’t matter.
So, I ran into the retired man yesterday. He was interested in the story of my new friend’s long-term unemployment, and readily gave me his telephone number. However, he cautioned, my new friend needed to call him. (Excellent strategy—make the unemployed man need to do something.)
I called my new friend today. I gave him the cell phone number, and boy, was he grateful! For him, this phone number was a lifeline, a connection with an industry that had been holding him at arm’s length for months. He said thank you to me, several times.
All because I made a connection, introducing two people who otherwise might never have met. What a way to be kind. What an opportunity to show caring and encouragement.