Act of kindness.

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Sometimes a gal gets thirsty. Thinking she simply needs a quick sip of water, she approaches a well. It’s dry. Hmmm. A little thirstier now, it’s on to the next well. Also dry. Alrighty then … at the next well, instead of water, up comes something that looks and tastes suspiciously like toxic goop. Not one to give up and kind of dying of thirst, she moves on to what looks like a well. It even offers water. Hallelujah! But wait … before she knows it, the well is telling her how dry it is and the dang thing turns around and drains her.

Huh. Where does a girl have to go to get a clean, sweet uncomplicated drink?

Life isn’t always like this for me or anyone, of course. But it certainly is sometimes. And when it is, here’s what I absolutely know is true: it feels really bad.

Bad enough that I try never to do it to others. I fail at this frequently, but since one of my core values is that I don’t want people to walk away from me feeling bad, unheard or unseen, I genuinely work at it heart-to-heart engagement when I interact with people on a personal basis. If I fail, I reflect on it and then I try harder next time.

While I’m always for reciprocity in relationship – as in I’ll meet your needs and it would be great if you could meet mine – sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. If people are like wells, I need to know which one to turn to and when. I need to learn to simply accept that, like me, people will succeed and fail in meeting the needs of others.

As that ancient storyteller Mr. Aesop once wrote, ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ I don’t offer this as yet another trite, Tumblr-ized, platitude. I do believe that listening – really and truly listening – is one of the most exquisite acts of kindness we can extend to our fellow humans. Really listening, to me, means validating someone’s experience. It gives me the chance to know someone’s heart just a little bit. And when I am truly listened to and heard, it is one of life’s cleanest, sweetest and most uncomplicated drinks.

Who’s not for that?