Good old-fashioned kindness has not disappeared. Last week, I drove to the countryside to inspect the teeny cabin in the woods. About 5 minutes into the long drive back, the dreaded Check Engine light came on. And stayed on.
Pulling into a small church parking lot, I popped the hood. Two old fellas were strolling through the cemetery and headed over to peer under the hood with me. Their average age appeared to be 90, and I nicknamed the quiet one Bert and the gregarious one Ernie. Bert suggested I check the oil, so Ernie checked the dipstick. Four times. The two of them finally agreed that it looked low. Since I drive a 14-year-old car, I travel with automotive fluids. Started ‘er up, and the Check Engine light remained on.
Bert thought I should move the car to a more level spot in the parking lot, so I did – twice before the two of them could agree on the spot. The car ended up behind the church, and my Worst Case Scenario Thinking kicked in. Why would I move my car to a remote location with two strange guys next to me? The next thought was “Lisa, calm down. You’re not in the BIG city”. You see, I’ve spent 6 months developing street cred – working on my mean face to dissuade contact with the many scam artists & addicts looking for handouts on our corner. Well meaning neighbors taught me to avoid eye contact, keep my cell phone & personal items concealed, and always watch my back. I’ve got a black belt, but have never had to be on alert every time I stepped out the front door. I didn’t like the feeling of hardening my heart against others.
Bert suggested we check the radiator fluid and Ernie started to undo the radiator cap. “No!” Bert and I shouted as boiling neon green fluid started spilling out. We directed Ernie to check the overflow container instead. It was empty. Ernie was so excited to fill the overflow container that he wanted to fill it to the brim. “No!” Bert and I warned again – it should only be filled halfway. But Ernie being Ernie filled it most of the way.
Started ‘er up, and the Check Engine light remained on. Bert told me “It’ll be OK. My car’s light goes on sometimes and it doesn’t seem to matter much.” He then told me about the folks he had buried in the cemetery – his mama and daddy and brothers and first wife. Ernie asked where I was from, and I said “Well, I’m from the BIG city, and this is my first visit to this little town.” He replied “We’re very friendly here.” And their simple kindness and willingness to help a stranger softened my heart. I knew then that this is the place where I want to live.
Think: In what ways have you hardened your heart? When does your Worst Case Scenario Thinking kick in? When fear strikes, ask yourself “Where am I right now?” Chances are you’re not in any real danger – if you are, then take action. But fear is usually just imagination run amok. Start by noticing the goodness in your present surroundings. In what state of being do you want to live?
Say: When you catch yourself in Worst Case Scenario Thinking, try saying out loud “All is well here” or “Calm down”. Snap back into the present moment.
Do: Smile at a stranger today. Look them in the eye and wish them a good day. Do an unexpected kindness. You might just be the one to renew their faith in humanity.