Sidewalk Ghosts / Interview 490: “The Cost Of Kindness”

“If they wouldn’t have been there, nobody would have found me and I would be dead.

Operation365_Delia1 Day one of Operation-365 at PHAMExpo behind me and I was completely lost. Beads of sweat rolling down my forehead as I wandered the humid and still air of a parking structure hell. Short of breath I searched on, 75 pounds of camera gear and laptops pressing down on my shoulders, seeking for any possible pointer toward the reprieve of green level and my patiently waiting vehicle. For 30 minutes I weaved up and down rampways and traversed stairwells, every step a quest for familiar button markings of what seemed like a non-existent elevator. My optimism depleted, my back barking, I could hold it no longer as I began cursing the architects and sign makers who had so rudely trapped me in this house of mirrors they so casually titled “Level Blue.”

It was getting late, most of the show exhibitors and customers gone. I wandered on. Like a blindfolded mule I submitted to the pace of an aimless trot. My vertebrae numbed, my shoulder strap worn, I trudged forward, committed to kick the crud out of my isolated journey of confusion.

But alas, on the horizon, another traveler began to emerge into view. Yes! I was not alone. There were others caught in the web of deceptive signage. Perhaps I would be saved.

“Let me guess…” I inquired, “… you’re looking for the Green Level?”

She smiled and, as if joined as veterans in a parking lot field unit, she teamed up. “Can I carry a bag for you?”

10 minutes later, and post a full back-track outside and around the building, we finally found ourselves approaching our objective—parking level Green, the sanctuary of our four-wheeled chariots. But in a hurry to part ways, we were not, for as we walked our stress diminished and we found ourselves deep in conversation of life and family.

“Be kind to every single person you run into. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated,” my new friend Delia shared as she noted reference to The Golden Rule and its implications on society. A topic that has led many a 365 chat, and one that has much merit to the mission Operation-365 proposes.

“You never know who that person is; you never know what they’ve been through. Just treat them with kindness.” Delia challenged. “It costs nothing, being kind is free. It costs nothing to give kindness, and it costs nothing to receive it. It is the least expensive gift you can ever give.”

Delia is truly a giver. Kind to the core, she has saved me. Not only by her help in transporting the weight of my bags, but via the trust she extends to us all in sharing of her story.

I ask her about the future—what we should do to be ready for its coming.

She silences in a long breath of thought. “Be prepared. We have to prepare ourselves for whatever is to come. Just always be prepared. Don’t ever have your guard down. Be prepared for whatever is thrown at you. Cause from day-to-day we don’t know what is going to come at us, so it best to just be on our game and be prepared.”

I’m caught off guard. How do I reconcile be kind with be prepared. In many a circle they could be deemed as competitive concepts. Today’s society preaches of open-mindedness, while at the same time professes building militant-like fortresses around our personal existence. That “only the strong will survive” attitude that is at the core of far too numerous a conflict to count. So I was a little lost again. This time, not for want of where my transportation was, but more intimately, in reconciling the scale of comparing kindness to preparedness.

We talk on and Delia works to clarify her point. “Be kind because that is just a part of who we are. It’s just something that we should all do. Just it’s that being prepared is something that we have to work for. Put a little effort into that.”

It began to register. “You mean, if our house is in order, then if the whole world went crazy, we are prepared without having to think of taking from anyone else. Perhaps we’d even be able to give to others,” I clarified.

Delia smiled, and thinking that we were done with our interview I asked permission to grab a snapshot of her. But there was so much more to Delia’s story.

Operation365_Delia2

We moved away from center garage into the better light of my selected photo area. There a much deeper story emerged as Delia opened up about the real source of her enlightenment.

“If they wouldn’t have been there, nobody would have found me and I would be dead,” speaking of her family who, at the last-minute, decided to stay home from a family outing.

“’I just remember not being able to see anything, asking why is everything getting dark? Why can’t I focus just this one time? And I remember going in to tell my family, ‘you know, I’m not feeling that well.’

“They said, ‘I don’t know, let’s take your blood pressure,’ and they took it and it went crazy.

“I said, ‘That blood pressure machine is broken, it’s not right.’ Just then I felt something. I said, ‘you know, I think I’m going to pass out.’ Then I couldn’t see anything. I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t respond. I heard my son crying, I heard my family calling 911. Everything, but I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t move. It was very frightening, but everything turned out for the best.’”

I found myself speechless. Concerned. Engaged. Curious… but speechless. Like an exploding flashbulb, a lightening bolt went off in my head. Delia had earned the credentials to make claim in her be kind to be prepared paradigm. Her near death experience is the motivator to her perspective. A lesson she learned during the final stage of pregnancy with her second son. A stroke brought on by a condition called Eclampsia.

“One out of ten women don’t make it…” Delia told me, “…I’m just lucky I was not the one.

“It was something different; a very, very, eye-opening experience. That’s why I’ve learned to appreciate everything, to be kind to everyone. You just never know. You never know when it’s going to be your last day. You just never know anything. So, yeah…” she pauses, eyes a little glossy.

Composure regained, Delia summarized. “There is no way to prepare for it. You just have to expect the unexpected.”

I get it—loud and clear. Finding myself almost a little repentant for all the stress I’ve been carrying this week in preparing for the trade show, I slow down, reflective, looking my teacher right in the eyes. I talk of my family—of how it is so easy to forget that little kiss, that little “OK,” that little gesture of “I took care of that thing I promised you,” of all those sort of things.

Delia smiles again, warm and genuine, “The things we can do for each other are not material, but they are the big things; be kind, be loving, be prepared. I can have a dollar in my bank account. That kind of stuff does no cost anything.”

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