June 11, 2021

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Taking time to express kindness is a welcome change

Kimberly PohoveyOn my commute downtown each morning, I face speeding cars, construction, traffic jams and cars cutting me off, but what really angers me is the lack of manners.

I was taught, and continue today, to allow room for someone to safely enter my lane. Conversely, when I’m the one who needs to change lanes, it has always been my practice to wave in my rearview mirror to the person behind me as a gesture of gratitude.

Increasingly, it seems like I’m the only one waving. In fact, when I do, I get looks of annoyance, or at least confusion. I’ve only lived in Indianapolis for 10 years. At first, I thought maybe it just wasn’t a custom in this city, as it was in my hometown. However, I’ve concluded that it is an unfortunate sign of the times.

It feels like we’re all in such a hurry that we don’t take the time for basic kindness and human interaction. How many times do we actually chat with the cashier checking out our groceries? The first week after moving to Fort Wayne years ago, I went to a local grocery and was stunned when the cashier said, “You’re new here, aren’t you?” She hadn’t seen me shop there previously and proceeded to ask all about my family and me. It was a very generous welcome.

Another lost art is handwritten notes. My mom made sure I handwrote notes of thanks for every gift. That carried over to my profession, for which I have written countless notes to volunteers and donors. One stood out.

A man in his early 30s volunteered for an event at the university where I worked. He eagerly performed his assignment, but generally kept to himself. As usual, I sent him a note to express my gratitude for his time. About a week later, he showed up at my office unannounced and thanked me for my kindness. He didn’t provide great detail, but he let me know that gesture meant the world to him, and the opportunity to volunteer was apparently a lifeline. I surmised he was struggling with some sort of mental health issue; clearly, he wasn’t accustomed to being around people. Writing notes was merely a habit for me, but it obviously provided the connection this man needed.

Circling back to my waving on the road habit, I recall as a teenager being a passenger for the first time in my friend Julie’s car. When a driver would not make room for her she literally blew the driver a kiss. I think he was a little taken aback by this gesture, so I asked her what was she doing? She said when someone isn’t nice, she blows them a kiss—not in a critical way, but to remind them that kindness rules the day. I didn’t start blowing kisses myself—Julie had a much more effusive personality—but I tell you I’m tempted to start.

In society’s breakneck speed, what a welcome change it is when someone slows down and takes the time to express kindness.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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