My Random Acts of Kindness project is coming to an end soon and I have had many experiences that I will probably repeat and many that I have learned from. One of the areas that surprised me the most was the reaction I got from people when I tried to give them a free treat.
I got a variety of reactions from people. About half of the time I was genuinely thanked and the person gave a smile of surprise and delight. That was great. Sometimes people even returned the Merry Christmas greeting, and I always feel a little warm and fuzzy on the inside when someone wishes me a genuinely felt Merry Christmas. It reminds me of the old Christmas movies that I love that are filled with such heart.
Of the remaining half of people that are left, about half of those people were too busy or two focused on their destination to stop. While this was a little sad to me, I can understand. I was handing out chocolates at the mall and had been rejected more than I expected and actually found myself rushing through the task. I wasn’t taking the time to talk to the two ladies that actually asked me about what prompted this. When I realized what I did in my car, I was actually a little disappointed in myself.
This is so me. I am guilty of rushing and being too focused. I am not always great about slowing down to appreciate the now, I am always looking ahead and trying to get there now, right this second. Sometimes this is great! I Made a great Girl Scout, always prepared! But when I am neglecting to chat with the person in front of me, I feel like I missed an opportunity. It’s practically missing the entire point of the project!
The other half were very skeptical of me. I think I may be underestimating here, because I was often met with hesitation. People thought I was going to ask them for money if they accepted the treat I was offering. It was shocking and a little disheartening that people had to be convinced that my kindness was just that, kindness.
Perhaps the reason that I had this happen so often was because I was at the mall. When I was passing out snacks at a college campus, I had far fewer people turn me down. At the mall, people were in consumer mode and other people walking around were trying to sell something.
I had more success giving away chocolate and flowers if I started with “Merry Christmas!” Perhaps they needed a context for my kindness.
that sentence strikes me as profoundly sad. Kindness needs a context now?
I find it perplexing that so many people rejected an act of kindness and did not even take the opportunity to make eye contact. Even when people said yes and accepted the gift, we didn’t necessarily make eye contact. When I stopped to think about this, I realize how little we make eye contact now. And how special it is when we do.
Is this a problem of technology? We’re disconnected from human interaction? Is it because we’re too rushed and too busy? Is it because we forget what human kindness is like? Are we becoming less human, less kind?
Michael Ellsburg actually wrote his first book on eye contact and started his own business for speed dating. In his version, you were not allowed to talk, only gaze into the eyes of the person opposite you. Eye contact is extremely important in creating a connection between romantic partners, and you can learn a lot in silence.
I just found that his website is still live, and you can get a free guide to host your own party. Maybe I will give this a try in the new year and host a version in Baltimore. I would be interested in experiencing it, at the very least.
Check it out for yourself: eyegazingparties.com
What are your thoughts on kindness in modern day society? Is kindness and small human gestures like eye contact slipping away? Or do you think there is more kindness than ever, you just have to keep your eyes open for it?