This post first appeared on Medium.
The value of kindness on the open market
Growing up on the rolling hills of Iowa, I was constantly surrounded by kindness. It is a commodity that is in short supply in the concrete jungle that is New York City.
This past weekend I spent hours walking the paths of Central Park, a 778-acre oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Some areas were quiet and provided solitude, and others were crowded and loathsome. It is difficult to find peace and escaping from the city is not an option.
When you’re walking down 5th Avenue at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, no one — and I mean no one — will pay you a passing glance, let alone help you in any way. People who live here pass it off as just the way things are. But go to the Bow Bridge area on a Saturday morning and you will find a different New York City. If you were there last Sunday, you would have seen a wedding proposal with 16 pugs.
Here you’ll walk up to a stranger and his girlfriend and ask them to take a picture of you and your boyfriend. They will happily oblige. You’ll say thanks and you’ll go your separate ways. Then five minutes later after sitting on a bench overlooking the lake, that same couple will return to ask the same favor of you. All four of you will share a laugh in the irony of the ask, but more in the kindness of strangers.
And it is that kindness that you miss from your childhood roots. That is what is missing from the day to day movements and the ping-pong interactions that come with New York City. People bounce from one thing to another, barely looking up from their latest iPhones that they slept on the street for two days to purchase at a cost higher than the majority of the world makes in a year.
Growing up where I did I obviously became spoiled with this thing called kindness. But it doesn’t have to be scarce. If corn and soybeans and cotton trade on the commodities market, surely kindness can trade on the streets freely and in public view. It can trade in back alleys and conference rooms. It can trade in the subways and in the local coffee shop.
My day in Central Park gave me hope that kindness has not become too expensive for us. I have been reminded that it is right there if we want it.