Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Being kind to others takes practice.

While in a large department store I witnessed a small act of kindness that changed my day. A man and woman in line ahead of me had two shopping carts full of items. The cashier had difficulty scanning a couple of the items, angering the woman customer. During the rest of the transaction the customer loudly berated the clerk and made comments about the store, the service and the quality of the help. The clerk, obviously flustered by the woman's behavior, nonetheless kept scanning items and placing them in the bags for the customer. The store had probably trained her for such contingencies as dealing with angry customers and she remained cordial and amiable throughout the woman's tirade.

After the couple left the checkout station the next customer in line moved up. She, of course, had been a witness to the previous customer's treatment of the cashier.

"You really handled that well," she told the clerk. "If that would have been me I wouldn't have been able to control my anger."

The response from the clerk was instantaneous. A smile of appreciation crossed her face. The customer's kindness helped erase the previous customer's rude comments.

Witnessing this incident reminded me that our words can mean so much to others. We can spread negativity or we can spread happiness. Just a few kind words can do it.

As recovering people when we walk through life we can practice treating others well. When the behavior of others creates stress in our lives we need to examine our reaction. When I have a bad reaction to others it's always about me. I'm either tired or frustrated or unfocused when I react badly to others. If I examine my reactions I can learn a lot about myself and not much at all about others.

When I am kind to others, I'm being kind to myself.