It doesn’t cost anything to be kind is a motto my father modeled for me in his dealings with people throughout my life.
That could be in my dealing with the FedEx worker who needed a light for his cigarette, and we ended up chatting about the degree he just earned and his exploring the possibility of changing careers and becoming a teacher.
Maybe it’s the cup of coffee and the two-hour conversation about my current struggles this year at my job I have with my 84-year-old neighbor whose husband recently passed away.
It could be in my chatting up the convenience store clerk who sells me smokes or in my interacting and making jokes with the gas station employees near my job. Or even just having a pleasant, affable tone with the waitress at the diner.
Kids or adults; rich or poor; black, white, Latino, or something else – does not matter what the distinction is – all humans deserve and require one element, and only one element, to connect with them; that is, dignity. All desire to be respected and valued, not diminished or marginalized.
It’s far too easy to take a condescending tone or put someone down just because you can. I saw enough of that from a select few snobs at Fairfield U. I see plenty of that in my current position with teachers ill-equipped – and, in some case, unqualified – to deal with the next-generation student. So, bridging the gap between groups begins with respect on both sides and an acknowledgment that discussing differences does not divide, but instead brings us closer together. For then we are understanding, not classifying or singling out.