I work part time for the National Historic Trails Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. Part. Time. In addition to me, there are four full time employees in the office and one part time intern who works most of her hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Recently, of the four full time employees, three were out in the field on research assignments all week and one was out of town for meetings. That meant I was the only person there for the bulk of the week and I work only 16 hours each week.
I had five voicemails when I arrived one morning. Of the five, three of them were from the same man who left no information except his name and phone number – I’ll call him Joe. With each message he left, his tone got viler and more aggressive. On the third message Joe left, he yelled that he was angry that no one was answering their phones and no one was calling him back. The fourth voicemail was a hang-up. The fifth voicemail was from another man – I will call him Mike.
Over the course of 15 minutes, I called Joe several times. Every time, however, it was busy. It actually rang busy! I haven’t heard that sound for years since the invention of call waiting and voicemail. In the meantime, I booted up my computer and called Mike whose number went straight to voicemail and his greeting was so pleasant, I grinned. He ended the greeting with, “Make it a great day!”
I left a message with my name and number. Then, moments later, I tried Joe one more time. This time it rang and he answered.
Me: Hello, Joe. This is Angie from the National Historic Trails office in Salt Lake returning your call. How may I be of service?
Joe: It is ABOUT DAMN TIME that someone there ACTUALLY DID THEIR JOB!
He went on to berate me. I could feel tears in the back of my throat, but it wasn’t sadness or fear. It was anger. And, because it is my job and my responsibility to maintain my cool and it is my personal commitment to treat people kindly, I did my best to do those things. I kept breathing and swallowing those tears and coaching myself through the rudest phone conversation I’ve had in a very long time.
I hung up the phone two minutes later – although it seemed like two hours – and I felt beaten. I wanted to go home.
My phone rang immediately and I glanced at the caller ID. It was Mike.
With shaking hands, I lifted the receiver and answered.
Me: National Historic Trails, this is Angie.
Mike: Oh, Angie! Thank you so much for calling me back so quickly! I really appreciate it.
My eyes filled with tears. These were tears of relief. Mike was kind, generous of spirit, and funny. We had a wonderful conversation for several minutes and he got me laughing. I could feel my spirits shifting and the heaviness lifting.
I thanked him for his kindness and his positive attitude. He said something like, “I haven’t always been this way, but I made a choice to be.”
He. Made. A. Choice. To Be Kind.
Because he had made the choice to commit himself to kindness, he supported me in shifting to lightness from the dark heaviness that had descended on my shoulders after talking with Joe and being shredded to oblivion by his rudeness.
It is true, my friend. We have no idea what others have gone through in the moments – or days or years – before we cross their paths. How we treat another can shift their entire day. Our choice to behave in a kind way to everyone around us perpetuates ripples of kindness. And Heaven knows, this world seems to be rife with animosity and humanity is craving kindness. And, even if it weren’t, there is no such thing as experiencing too much kindness.
Choose Kindness. Choose Love.
© Angie K. Millgate 2016