BE KIND WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING
I’m sure by now, many of you have seen the video of the Queen of comedy and kindness–Ellen Degeneres–calling out an audience member that greedily took more merchandise than she was supposed to before the airing of her show. While it was clearly indicated that each guest should only take a single free item, one woman (who is now, I’m sure, in some remote country hiding her face in shame) kept coming back for more. “Let that be a lesson to you,” Ellen advised after playing the clip of the theft on national television, “…you think that nobody is watching you, but you just need to be a good person because you want to be a good person.”
While it was hilarious and quite awkward of Ellen to call this woman out, I also think she made an important reprimand. It left me asking the question, what kind of person am I when no one is watching?
During my freshmen year of college I had to read a book called Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute for a communication class. This book was a game-changer for me. It describes self-deception as a “disease” in which a person acts contrary to what they know is right. It’s pages are filled with example after relatable example of this disease playing out.
You’re driving home late at night and you see that the gas needle is on empty. You know your spouse needs the car in the morning and that they will have to stop and fill up before work. Do you pull over and fill the tank or drive home and pretend you didn’t notice?
As new, exhausted, parents, you hear the newborn baby crying. Do you pretend to be asleep so that your spouse is the one that has to get up with the baby?
You have the aisle seat that you want on an airplane and a woman traveling with two children is crammed in the window seat in front of you, do you offer to trade places to make things more convenient for her?
People need people. But really, people need kind people. Because isn’t there enough selfishness and greed out there? An anthem I live by plays in the cheese-ball country song I adore, “I hope you give more than you take.” That simple shift in focus goes from, “How can I make my life easier?” to “How can I make other’s life easier?”
Lucky for me, I have great people in my life. The kind of people whose quiet goodness presents itself in a sweet hand written note thanking me for the lesson I taught in Sunday school, or a homemade loaf of bread on my front porch.
One such person probably has no idea what a profound influence she had on my life.
When Michael and I got sealed in the temple, the Bradys, a family that means a whole lot to me for a whole lot of reasons, traveled in a sedan from Boise to Rexburg, just to be there for the sealing, and then went back to Boise that same day. 10 hours of riding in a car just to show moral support. (Did I mention they brought a toddler along?!) There was a nice but modest dinner after the sealing at the church building next to the temple so that we could feed our beloved guests. Shelee Brady spent the entire evening in the kitchen slicing ham, refilling water pitchers, scrubbing dishes, and serving pie. I don’t think she sat down the entire time! I have found myself thinking about her simple act of service often. When I find myself wanting to be lazy and disappear when it’s time to do dishes after a large gathering I think, “What would Shelee Brady do?” and then I roll up my sleeves and get to work. Kindness is contagious that way.
And yeah, sometimes it’s easier to be kind when you have an audience. When you know it makes you look good and you get a nice big thank you or atta’ boy. But I think the kind of person you are reflects in the kinds of things you do in those moments when you’re alone. When you push your shopping cart and the one left in the middle of a parking space in front of you back where they belong. Or you scrape your neighbor’s frozen windshield to save them a little extra time on their route to work that morning. Or you make sure to plug your wive’s cell-phone into your one and only shared charger because you know she uses it more than you.
Just be kind. Even when no one is watching. Because who knows? Maybe they’re watching after all.