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Kindness is less expensive than you think

I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe table when I noticed a praying mantis slowly crawling on the arm of the plastic chair next to me.

praying mantis
A bug in Israel

I was sitting there because I had nothing to do but kill time  — 15 minutes to kill — until my scheduled driving test in downtown Haifa.

It would be, in fact, my second driving test in as many weeks. I failed the first one.

Since waking up with a startle at 4:30 am, I had been psyching myself up for the test. Trying to remind myself that the test was not that big of a deal; that passing or failing wasn’t life or death. I told myself I’m a good and safe driver, but (as I learned last time) there is only so much I can be prepared for such a test.

As in life, sometimes a street cleaner in an orange vest decides to walk backwards into traffic and you have to make a split second decision, and hope for the least messy result….and, in the case of a driving test, the kindness of the instructor.

Sitting in that cafe chair with 15 minutes to go and nothing else to do, I noticed the praying mantis. I thought to myself, “That guy is lucky I sat next to him and not some 6 year old serial-killer-to-be who would have enjoyed pulling off his skinny little legs one by one.”

I examined the creature closely. How was he so calm? How could he possibly just meander along like that without worry? Did he sense the presence of the fat hairy guy standing next to him drinking an espresso? Was he worried at all that the guy would sit down and rest his heavy arm on top of him?

In fact, I could very easily smush that bug myself, I thought. Or at least swat him away, off the chair, simply because I don’t like bugs.

Instead, I’m observing him, I thought. Acknowledging him. Letting him be.

Lucky him. I kinda wish I were that praying mantis right now.

Or, at least, I wish for the same kind of luck.

I need to be let alone today.

I need a lucky break.

I need the simple kindness of a stranger.

Then it hit me.

Sometimes, just letting someone — or something — be is an act of kindness.

To be kind doesn’t require a lot of time or money. Nor does it require great courage or forethought.

Sometimes, you just need to let someone be.

Leave a bug alone.

Allow someone a mistake (without reprimanding her for it)

Give someone a break (when she doesn’t necessarily deserve it)

Back off  someone when you could just as easily crush her

(Pass her when you could just as easily fail her).

Sometimes (just as our listening is sometimes a bigger gift than our speaking)our inaction is a greater kindness than our action.

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