Today I thought I would talk about kindness, spurred by two recent incidents, which I encountered, one that involved kindness and one that did not.

Let’s start with the good first. The last weekend of May I attended a conference in New Orleans. During one of our dinners out, at a highly rated and recommended restaurant, my colleagues and I noticed glitter strewn across the middle of the table. We thought only that it was a nice decoration. We did not realize that other tables did not have such adornment until the manager arrived asking what occasion we were celebrating. As we looked at him confused and dumbfounded, he explained that the glitter indicated a celebration. Obviously we all realized an error, the origin of which was unknown…possibly a change in reservation of the party that was celebrating. Well, in a polite, joking manner I said that we were in town for a conference, that it was our first time in New Orleans, and that my birthday was in six weeks. Needless to say, we had a good laugh and left it at that. The restaurant was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the service was attentive and jovial. Then, at the end of the meal, the waiter brought out a birthday dessert. Although my birthday was quickly approaching, we were truly only having fun with the glitter error. Yet the manager went with it. It was such a kind and generous gesture. Not only did it kick off my birthday celebrations with a bang, it heightened my view of the restaurant. For me, it emphasized their care towards their diners. Of course, we left an additional tip and I have positively reviewed the restaurant. It truly was a mutually beneficial experience. (If you are ever in New Orleans, try out GW Fins.)

Now let’s move to the bad. I left my cellular telephone in an Uber taxi this past weekend. Once I realized the error, I telephoned the driver to arrange to retrieve my phone. The driver answered irate that awoke him, berated me about my irresponsibility, and told me he would return my phone when his shift began (which was 12 hours later), and then hung up on me. Funny thing, my driver hung upon on me before I was able to say that I was willing to pick up my phone at any location, as I have a car to travel and I did recognize that leaving my phone was my error. So, instead of being able to pick up my phone from the Uber Chicago office, where my driver should have left the lost item per protocol yet did not, I spent the day communicating by Twitter with Uber Chicago. However, it seems that they were not able to communicate with the driver, as the issue was not resolved. Finally, 12 hours later (after missing work calls, as I use my phone for work, and missing a social event attempting to resolve the issue), my driver telephoned, again berated me for my lack of responsibility, and said that he would return my phone when he was in my neighborhood (time unknown) and only if I paid him. Again, funny thing, had my driver arranged for me to pick up my phone rather than hanging up on me and spending 12 hours ignoring all calls from both myself and Uber, I most likely would have given him some money out of gratitude for being a good Samaritan. Instead, I contacted the police and was informed that “finders keepers” is not legal and that theft of lost property is actually a charge, and a felony at that if the property is valued at greater than $150. So, instead of my picking up my phone or my giving my driver a tip for returning my phone, my driver ultimately, two hours later when he returned my phone, ended up being faced with returning my phone or my telephoning the police. Really…?! I knew that it was my error and responsibility and I was willing to accept that, either by picking up my phone myself or by paying for my driver’s time spent returning my phone. Yet that is not what transpired. And I gave my driver one star instead of five.

I suppose my final thought is that kindness does no harm. It benefits both the giver and the receiver. Life can be difficult at times and we do not always see the good in others. Yet, approaching situations first with kindness and good assumptions is the only way to increase the likelihood that others will respond in kind with kindness and good assumptions. So the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, I encourage you to start from a position of kindness.