For the fifth week of the Kindness Challenge put on by Niki at “The Richness of a Simple Life” the focus has been on “Choosing Kindness”.
I have been thinking a lot this week about the daily circumstances that often prevent us from choosing kindness. This week I am working on the organizational team of an over 4000 attendee international congress in Vancouver. These types of meetings always bring up questions about kindness for me, as they are a time and place, where hundreds of staff and thousands of attendees are brought together to interact in a confined space. In order to make these events happen everyone matters. And I do mean everyone. From the healthcare professional coming to gain additional knowledge in their field, over the organizing team that planned the whole event, the stressed out technicians dealing with all the technology to make it seem flawless, to the staff in charge of keeping the venue pristine and the temp staff taking the entrance tickets at the door. Of course there are many others that have gone unmentioned here, but listing them all would be beyond the scope of my little post.
I am usually not the most outgoing person in a room, but at these events, I love interacting with everyone from the delegates attending to learning about the staff hired by the venues, where the event takes place. I think these events are a unique opportunity for everyone involved to choose to practice kindness.
While the circumstances for each person involved are different, the underlying obstacles to choosing kindness often seem to be found within ourselves. For myself, I know that in situations of busyness and high stress, I need to make a conscious effort to pull myself out of my own mental bubble. I can get so caught up in my own issues and worries about yesterday or tomorrow that I walk around with blinders and miss what is actually going on around me at this very moment. When I do this, I also miss the opportunity to connect with the people around me and don’t even think about extending or receiving kindness with the person I casually pass in the hallway or have a small interaction with in the conference room. If I am not present and I am preoccupied with thoughts of something “more important”, I am not ready to project outwardly or take anything in. Although it might seem simple, it actually takes effort to pull myself into the current moment. But when I do, I also choose the opportunity to extend and receive kindness and suddenly opportunities appear everywhere.
Being the host of such events, I have a unique position bringing out this gift in others. There seem to be two behaviors on the forefront that stopped the attendees from connecting to others. The first has to do with the little devices that are now attached to our fingertips and that allow us to stare at them while making our way from point A to point B without having to take notice of anything that is going on around us. The second is the habit of taking notice of only the familiar faces in the crowd and forming little clusters of networks, while ignoring everyone that does not fit into this network. My name badge identifying me as a staff member of the organization the healthcare professionals belong to and the one that put on the event, allowed me to break this trend for both groups. I would walk through the venue with the purpose of supporting the attendees, which for me also meant drawing them out of their mind by simply extending a greeting, making someone suddenly having to draw attention away from their device and respond in real life and then using the opportunity to point out the views or a certain event that would require engagement with the outside world for a little while longer.
For me these conferences are the greatest opportunity to learn about all different kinds of ways to live our lives and to connect with people on a more personal level. I have to admit, I particularly like all the stories of the people working the event as temp staff, as there are always life stories to be had. This week included, the retired couple, who is making extra money so they can travel the world, the women who used to have her own business in meeting planning, but miscalculated the financial risk involved and is now looking for new ways to get back into the field as the passion for it has not yet left her (watch out, as I am sure she will find her way and be a force to reckon with), the women who used to work at a research lab and now helps out at farmer’s market besides working events, and my new friend the tour guide. All such beautiful souls and we offered each other inside and wisdom to take back to our regular lives in just a few short days. And there were of course many more encounters with attendees and venue staff, as well as deepened connection with the co-workers I work with on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of missed opportunities for connections, where people were shut off and were not able to make their way out of their mental bubble. I have no judgement here, as we never know what is going on in someone else’s life and maybe the time was just not right to connect today.
But I encourage you to take some time to walk through a day (whether this will just be your local grocery store, your office, or another public space) and take notice whether you are walking the space and are making the choice to see it for what it is at this very moment with all the people involved to make the place you are in alive in this very moment. And I guarantee you, if you are present you will see an opportunity to make a friendly connection with someone else around you. Whether it is just a head nod, a smile, or an exchange of words.
Kindness actions has its roots in the present moment.