For a long time, I regretted how I treated Mr. Pinter.
He was a decent man trying to teach language arts to a wolf pack of middle schoolers. And this wolf pack didn’t take to Mr. Pinter. (Whose name I’ve changed for this story.)
They moaned that he was suuuuuch a lame teacher. Mimicked him behind his back. Lied to his face.
I was in the wolf pack, too. But I thought Mr. Pinter was a good teacher. Looked forward to his class the night before.
Yet since it wasn’t convenient to be kind to Mr. Pinter, I kept my mouth shut. And while I didn’t mimic him, I laughed when others did. Which was okay, I told myself, because at least I wasn’t the one being mean.
It’s what President McKinley called an “omission of kindness.”
Looking back, I tell myself I would have been a bigger, better person with Mr. Pinter: I’d have defended him, been kinder, more courageous.
But the real work is not in looking back at our lives with regret. The real work is in looking at the here and now of our lives. And – honestly, painfully, putting excuses aside – recognizing where we’re omitting kindness.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got plenty of these omissions. And my work – maybe yours, too – is to be the person I wasn’t with Mr. Pinter. By which I mean to ditch convenience and choose kindness. And keep on choosing it no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it is.
We can tell ourselves all the livelong day we would have been bigger, better people. Or we can spend the livelong day being the bigger, better people we have it in us to be.