I was at Walmart buying produce today. I was tired and didn’t feel like weighing everything and looking up bar codes so I avoided the quicker route of self check out. It was busy. I got on a line and not 3 minutes later the light in the lane next to me flashes on. Serendipitous. A woman with a full cart heads that way with me, generously allowing me to go first with my 8 items. I thank her. And thank the elderly cashier for opening.

She looks down and realizes she doesn’t have a cash bank. Oh no, can you pay with credit? Of course. Then all hell breaks loose. The older man behind me, who the full cart lady also let ahead of her (how awesome is it when people do this?) begins to have a full blown mantrum/conniption/hissy fit. But I only have cash he moans loudly, turning to the line behind him as audience. He got louder. And uglier. And a bank was brought before I was even checked out. His energy tainted the air for yards around him; the scorched stench of impotent rage.

Maybe he had just been diagnosed with cancer. His beloved daughter could have died yesterday. He was clearly in pain, with emotions that needed releasing, processing. But when we take our own churning chaos out on others, when we don’t use the proper channels and tools to regulate and maintain our inner atmosphere, we contribute to the overall suffering of the world. And we need to cease and desist. I’m just as guilty of falling into this as the next person. I’ve been that guy before. But when you know better, do better.

Can we all try to be 3% nicer? I challenge you. I challenge myself. Kindness elevates. It can be used as a conduit for communication, connectedness and community. Let’s try to consciously lift one another up. We are taught the quote those who are hardest to love often need it the most at a young age; but by adulthood, we seem to forget that basic premise. Next time you find yourself sighing heavily at a stranger’s display, or the behavior of someone unable to mask their pain in public, try to reach for compassion instead of disdain.

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