The Mathematics of Civility

Not long ago I was tossing and turning on a very hard bed in the middle of the night, trying to make myself comfortable on a wafer-thin pillow, struggling to get some sleep before a a big day.  Growls and Grumbles were going through my mind: “They call this a Bed & Breakfast?  I thought B&B’s were supposed to be charming, and unique!  These folks obviously didn’t get into this business because they enjoy people – so cold and unapproachable!”  As I tossed and turned I was writing in my head the review I would write, going over each detail, concentrating on every negative I had seen.

Then a piercing thought interrupted my downward spiraling mental perambulations, a question, startling and surprisingly direct.  It was a simple question: “Why would you want to add to all the misery that is already in the world?”

If I thought I had been awake before, now I found myself even more so!  How could I be so ready to lash out and injure???  Why would I want to hurt these people?  …Because they didn’t reach my high standards?  …Because they didn’t fulfill all my expectations?  What if they were doing the very best they could, given their past and their circumstances?  What if they were extending their best hospitality, all they had within them?  If I gave them that scathing review I had already written in my head, would it help in any way or simply make them more bitter and give less reason for genuine hospitality in the future?  What within me would want to hurt these people?!?  Horrifying thought!!!

Once I decided how I would answer that question, I fell asleep, slept soundly, and awoke refreshed and ready for the day.  I enjoyed our host’s microwave breakfast because they had prepared it for me, and, because I was looking, could genuinely compliment them on a few things.  I was able to give them my full attention, and I noticed little ways they had tried to please.  I was able to extend my heart in grateful thanks, enjoy what they had to offer and offer kindness and encouragement in return.  This was genuine on my part, simply because I had changed my heart’s direction the night before.  I have no regrets!

This was a great lesson for me.  Why would I want to add to all the pain and all the misery that is already in the world???  What could I add that would delight and encourage?  What might I subtract?  Addition.  Subtraction.

Some would say I was doing a disservice to future guests by not informing them of the mediocrity of this particular B&B.  My heart made its own decision.  If I must choose, (and I DO!) I would rather be known for outrageous kindness than wounding and selfish insensitivity.

The Mathematics of Civility.  It’s what you choose to add.

Outrageous Kindness or Wounding Insensitivity?

Yours for the return of Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, & Excellence,

Mary Alice