Was sitting in a restaurant yesterday, on a tight deadline to finish a report for a major project when I was approached by a young woman who started to tell a tale of being stuck without money for her hotel (on the other side of town) and could I help? Immediately stressed between saying “no”, Generating Kindness, and possibly giving money to a drug addict. Asked a few questions, called the (independent and 1-star) motel and was told by the person there that the name she’d given me was registered there. But something still didn’t feel right. This woman approached me in a restaurant where lots of people were watching our interaction. I felt pressured to do something especially with GK sticker on full display.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out what was in it – $2 and handed it to her. “Why did you make me go through all that for two dollars? Thank you,” and with that she walked away, leaving me feeling like crap.
I struggled with what to do. There was something about her story that didn’t add up, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The person who answered the phone at this shady motel was eager to give me information about the woman, which I thought was suspect. Aren’t motels supposed to protect their clients? In the end, it was all I had in my wallet (I had some more cash in my pocket, but in the strange interaction, I chose to withdraw and not try to solve her so-called problem).
Wrestling with the embarrassment of being seen as a cheapskate to someone who told a tale of woe in a rather public way, I struggled with what to do. I decided that it’s not up to me to solve ANYONE’s problem. I give time and money to food banks and homeless shelters and don’t have any obligation to give money to anyone who asks.
Kindness is a PRACTICE, which means sometimes you will fall short of your ideals. You will fail. Or feel like you’ve failed. But remember that kindness is not an obligation. Acting kind out of a sense of obligation is a distortion in the energy-field of compassion. In fact, maybe kindness out of a sense of obligation isn’t kindness at all.