Kindness is magic.

Not in the illusion or slight-of-hand sense.

But in the change things in an instant — alter reality…create something where there was nothing sense.

Are You Blind?

A couple of decades ago, while on vacation, I was headed into one of those well known we-have-everything-you-need-and-then-some stores. It was unfamiliar territory; but I headed toward the area where shoppers were, I thought, entering the store.

As I  got close to the entrance I heard a shrill and slightly angry voice that, as it turned out, was directed at me — “are you blind, or what?

It turned out I was about to enter via the exit.

The door monitor was not about to stand by and let this happen. She was in charge…and her vocal exclamation was designed to communicate her authority.

For context — if you know me well (or if you’ve seen my TEDx Talk) you know that I am, indeed, blind…legally. In practical terms this means that I can get around just fine as long as I don’t have to negotiate new territory. And this was new territory.

This was not one of my better days. I don’t remember my word-for-word response; but I know my tone was far from kind. I fear it bordered on mean and nasty. 

Now You See It. Now You Don’t.

Those who amaze us with magic understand that perspective is central to the art. The magician must be able to see things from the point of view of the audience. This perspective shift is what creates the possibility to amaze. 

When it comes to tapping into the magic powers of kindness our task is easier. It isn’t necessary to actually see things from another’s point of view; all that is required is that we act on the understanding that there is at least one other perspective in the room.

This awareness — a byproduct of empathy — makes it possible to respond in what some might think of as a surprising way. It fosters a perspective that can build a bridge where there once was a chasm.

This is the magic of human kindness.

It may take the form of a cup of cold water offered to a thirsty stranger. Or a helping hand, expecting nothing in return. It is grounded in respect, affords dignity and lends a ready ear.

It is a safe place to land in the midst of a life storm.

Instantly Change What Today Feels Like

Armed with a dose of human kindness each of us has the power to make it a better day for everyone we encounter. Even my less than cordial door monitor at the superstore.

On a better day I would have remembered all of this — that I had no idea what her day had been like…the baggage she might have carried to work that day…what the job had subjected her to. 

What I know is that I missed the chance to work some magic, brighten her day and build a bridge that might have served her in days and years to come. I missed the chance to respond with kindness. 

In his poignant composition I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today, Randy Newman concludes with this:

Right before me

The signs implore me,

Help the needy

And show them the way.

Human kindness is overflowing;

And I think that its going to rain today.

Some days it feels as if the deficit can’t possibly be made up. That feeling notwithstanding, everyone of us knows how to work a little magic.

A shoulder to lean on…an encouraging word…a cup of cold water. It works magic; but it is just basic human kindness.