I've been working on a writing project that does not involve my day job at CBS News, and it's interesting to notice the different treatment I receive.
For one thing, when I call or email someone and say I'm from CBS News, I get an immediate response. When I'm on my own, not as much. That's to be expected, of course, but it's still eye-opening. I'll tell you this much: I notice and very much remember those who respond to me as a person and not just as a person representing an organization.
And what I notice most of all is kindness. The people who respond to emails right away, offering advice or help, even when they know there is nothing in it for them -- and not just once but often, to help you along, to make sure you understand. I doubt they think of themselves as being kind, but, being on the receiving end, that's how I perceive it.
For me, kindness is an overlooked personality trait. When speaking of our ideal partners, people talk about intelligence, looks, wealth, sense of humor, sexuality, sensuality -- you name it. Kindness is often at the bottom of the list. But when you think about it, isn't kindness what we humans desire most of all? I think so.
New York is a city with a distinct lack of kindness. It's a rough place with a lot of hard edges. I've lived here all my life and believe I understand it as well as anyone. You do have to put your guard up when you go outside. There are a lot of tough characters here and everyone retreats to their own little world. It's probably too hard to live here if you're totally open.
As a result, New Yorkers (who are friendly to tourists) are not so kind to one another. Don't agree? Well, if you were in the city right after 9/11, you'd know what I'm talking about. In the aftermath of that tragedy, for about two weeks, there was something in the air. New Yorkers were kind to one another. They were looking out for one another. The defensives had been dropped. The difference was palpable.
It's easy in NYC to be snarky or sarcastic or defensive, which is another reason I practice yoga. I want to get out of my native New York mindset and into something yogis and Buddhists call "lovingkindness" meditation -- it's a way of rewiring your brain to think more positively about others. It's a much-needed exercise in this giant city of strangers, at least for me. And it's a way for me to remember to be kind to others.