|#iceroadcommute by Krista Burpee-Buell|
But the good news is that the opposite behaviour is just as contagious. Kindness, respectful treatment of others, civil tones, and politeness are just as catching as bad behaviour. And... and we're not only being helpful to those to whom we extend kindness, we're also helping ourselves. Apparently extending kindness makes us healthier, happier, and is even reputed to slow the aging process. Doing good elevates our dopamine levels, creating what psychologists call a "helper's high." According to Dr. David Hamilton, PhD in Organic Chemistry, acts of kindness create a feeling of "emotional warmth" in us, which produces a hormone called oxytocin in our bodies, which in turn releases nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and can lower blood pressure. Oxytocin also reduces the levels of free radicals and inflammation in our cardiovascular system. So being kind to others is the same as being kind to ourselves. Win, win.
I read a post on Instagram the other day, which resonated with me. A woman described how she had answered her door that morning to a couple of missionaries from one religion or another, it doesn't matter which one. She said she told them "religion wasn't her thing," and afterward they chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. When the couple left, the female missionary turned back, smiled, and thanked her for her kindness. For presumably NOT slamming the door in their faces, as a room mate once advised me to do when an elderly lady came to our door delivering copies of "The Watchtower." The Instagrammer said that the lady's smile had stayed with her all day. I love that story.
You know, when you think about it there are people all over who are being kind. Just going about their day being civil, and patient, and respectful. Just before Christmas I bought a new car. I did my research thoroughly; I knew what I wanted, and eventually narrowed my choices down to two different vehicles. Then I test-drove each of them at least three times. Back and forth Hubby and I went between the two dealerships. I can't tell you how patient both of the salesmen were with me. I smile when I think of all the chit chat on those test-drives between Hubby in the passenger seat and one or the other of those salesmen in the back. One is a fairly recent immigrant to Canada; Hubby knew his whole story before we were through. The other is a young man who'd attended the school where I taught; he and Hubby traded hockey stories while I focused on the driving. When I finally made my choice, I texted the salesman at the other dealership that I was sorry, but we'd decided to go with his competitor. He responded: "No worries. Congratulations on your new car." What a lovely response, eh? I have both their business cards in my wallet. If you need a trustworthy, polite, and patient car salesman, just let me know.
|Evening commute through Kingsclear, New Brunswick by Krista Burpee-Buell|
And you know, since winter can be so stressful on its own, maybe we all need to be extra polite, a bit more patient, and a little more kind to each other.
Consider the girl who works a fast-food drive-through window near you, who has to take payment and hand out hot food and coffee all the while freezing her butt off. Maybe we need to be a bit more cheery to her next time. Ask her how she's handling the cold. Tell her that she's doing a great job. Or the pharmacist at a local drugstore who, when you take a second to look more closely, appears to be all on her own, handling doctor phone calls, dispensing prescription medication, coming out from behind the counter to help an elderly customer choose a cough syrup, then giving you your flu shot. Maybe you need to tell her not to rush, you know she's busy, you know she's doing her best.
Maybe we all need to be sure that we're not one of those crabby, snappy, selfish, "I'm the only one who matters" people who make winter seem colder and longer. Maybe as well as a flu shot, we need a vaccine for rude, selfish behaviour, to stop the spread of the contagion.
Or we could just try to be kind. For everyone's sake. Even our own.
Have a look at this clip from one of my all time favourite television shows. Frasier gives a lesson in civility. Gosh I miss that show.