Kindness Spreads

Jan 21, 2016

In the midst of political mud-slinging, news of violence, and bombardment of hate language, one woman, Sarah Bigler, took time to spread the word of kindness. She slowed down and took the time to witness and see patience, tolerance, and kindness in action.

We buzz about our days often without any awareness. Sometimes I pull in my driveway and don’t even remember the drive home. My head is full of thoughts about my hopes, dreams, frustrations, to-do lists—me, me, me.

But Sarah, one of my dearest friends, paused and stood in the present moment. And what she gained in that single moment was in fact a gift of presence. She then took the time to write about it and share it on her Facebook page.

It was a seemingly simple post to honor the kindness and patience she and her children witnessed at the Glendale Target in Indianapolis. After scurrying through the store for a few items on her way home, she found the shortest lane available, which didn’t end up equating to the quickest lane. Sarah was anxious to get the kids home but noticed that her daughter Eloise’s eyes were transfixed on the young male associate, Ishmael, assisting the elderly woman ahead of them. The woman got nervous, knowing people were waiting. The associate stayed calm and kind and helped her count her change. Eloise, with her little chin propped onto the conveyor, watched every move Ishmael made.

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When the woman’s transaction was complete, he thanked Sarah for her patience. However, Sarah was the one full of gratitude for the example of patience and kindness he just demonstrated in front of her daughter—a lesson Sarah wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to teach Eloise in the way he did.

Sarah was so moved by Ishmael that she sought out a manager to share her appreciation for Ishmael and came home to share the entire experience on Facebook. She shared genuinely and wholeheartedly. And what resulted was one simple post shared nearly 28,000 times, local news spots, national articles, messages of appreciation from around the globe—it went viral.

Sadly, several hateful messages accompanied the attention. Some spewed ignorance and intolerance. Others wondered what the big deal was—it’s just a stupid post, you’re just trying to get attention, why would anyone care about this. It’s so easy to write what upsets, offends, angers on social media. Sarah took the time to voice appreciation, which so few of us do. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a moment of extreme patience and kindness wasn’t newsworthy? But this story caught the attention of thousands and was shared with millions.

Those naysayers remind me that many people live with so much fear, anger, and misery every day that even a simple social post ignites rage. They deflect and ignore. They attack outward instead of looking within—it’s easier that way until it is not.

Sarah and I both learned that firsthand. Together, we both bumped through our twenties and early thirties without much awareness to solutions. We partied and avoided what was going on within our hearts. We had pain and would commiserate together. Then it stopped working for us, and we both sought solutions to live happier and more fulfilling lives. It took awareness and a lot of work to get on the side of that fear and anger, and we supported each other every step of the way.

Sarah teaches high school English and is always attempting to empower her students to act with kindness and be aware of those suffering around them. She started a program at school called “To The Girl…,” which posted anonymous notes for girls that might be in pain from body image issues, home violence, friendship troubles, and many more aches of a teenager. Sarah knows that a simple note of kindness can help someone be seen, and therefore, gather up the courage to take one step forward.

Her commitment to looking for positives inspires me, and apparently her voice has inspired thousands of other people to do the same. And that’s because kindness and love spread faster and further than hate.