Punished By Kindness

The other day when I was boarding another crowded, over-sold flight, I had the opportunity to help this young woman put her bag in the overhead compartment.  While I certainly didn’t assist her for any reason another that she looked like she could use the help, she never acknowledged my help or even noticed than I had to move a couple of bags around to make her bag fit.  She had her earbuds in and seemed to be in another world oblivious to anything except what was going on inside her head. 

A little later on, the flight attendant who had noticed this incident stopped to thank me for helping the young lady and keeping things moving along. He then added, “I don’t help people with their bags anymore.” Without me prompting him for a reason, he said it never ends well and went on to describe a recent event. He said a man boarded his flight a few days ago with a big bag and his hands full with a 32oz drink and a bag of food. He was obviously struggling to put his bag away, so the flight attendant helped him put it away, and when it was almost in the overhead compartment, the man let go of the bag, and it fell on the lady in the next seat.

Instead of apologizing and checking if the woman was hurt, the passenger turned to the flight attendant and said, “That’s not my fault, you should have caught it.” The flight attendant goes on to say, every time I break my resolve to help, something like this happens.  He went on to say he has learned that going out of his way is never appreciated and ends of causing him more trouble.

Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone and not only did the person not thank you, but it backfired? This recent experience with the flight attendant made me rethink the reasons why there isn’t more kindness in the world. Maybe we are inadvertently sabotaging the spread of kindness by not acknowledging how much we appreciate these kind acts.

Think about it this way.  Every time you express appreciation for kindness, you are reinforcing this behavior and increasing the likelihood it will continue.  When we ignore or inadvertently punish this behavior, we are decreasing the likelihood of that person repeating the behavior.  How about starting tomorrow, you look for small acts of kindness. Look for those you benefited from, but also kindnesses showed to others. And when you experience or witness these kind acts, you make sure the person spreading kindness receives the appreciation they deserve. 


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