I remember she came out of her office and into the newsroom with that look on her face, the one where you can tell someone is about to get it. I don’t even know what she was angry about but she was loud and she was right. Someone had been wronged and she was having no part of it.
Later, when my co-worker had calmed down, I thanked her for being so honest with her emotions and for crossing that all-important line of niceness.
For years and years I tried to make sure I never ruffled any feathers or hurt anyone’s feelings. I knew exactly what society expected from nice people, and I tried to check everything off the list.
In the process, I confused giving in to what other people wanted with being humble and loving. I focused more on controlling what people saw on the outside – my curb appeal – than I did on doing the spiritual remodeling I needed on the inside.
The funny thing is, when the spiritual dust began to settle, it was kindness that started to take center stage. Niceness got tossed in the Dumpster.
With kindness I found I could listen to a friend, pay for a stranger’s lunch, send cards to soldiers and still do things that niceness wouldn’t allow – things that might make people uncomfortable.
I could write to the head of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and state senators and representatives to tell them that three years in foster care is long enough for boy to be in limbo, especially when that boy is only 8.
I could eat dinner in a crowded, dilapidated home of migrant workers so that I could hear their side of the story with my own ears.
Before, when I practiced niceness, it required me to shy away from the battlefield of controversy but that’s where kindness shines. While niceness is a stagnant mask, kindness requires action.
My co-worker acted that day by challenging something she saw as unfair to others, and when I thanked her for it, she merely said that next time it would be my turn. I, too, could pick kindness, even if it’s loud.