A simple philosophy for a boomer: be kind

If baby boomer Larry Checco of Silver Spring, Maryland, isn’t a philosopher, maybe he ought to be. Because in much of what Larry writes for BoomerCafé, we hear the philosophy of a boomer who has learned a lot about life. What he has learned and conveyed in today’s piece is, Be Kind.

Although I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for 35 years, I was born and raised just outside of New York City (blank stares).

I’m a Type A personality and a certifiable ADHD adult (titters).

And already today I’m on my fourth cup of coffee (loud chuckles).

Larry Checco with his wife, Laurie.

Larry Checco with his wife, Laurie.

Folks, you’re dealing with the perfect storm (out-and-out laughter).

And that’s how I start all of my public speaking engagements. It gives me an immediate connection with my audience — and cranks me up to make my delivery.

Fact is, this need for instant connectivity overlaps into my more private life as well.

As a boomer, I’m in touch with my own aging. I’m conscious of all the countless excuses and opportunities there are not to engage — from slowly diminishing energy levels, to days of aches and pains, to creeping grumpiness.

I try hard, however, to avoid those shoals whenever possible.

In full disclosure, I greatly appreciate — nay, I require and covet — my quiet and alone time.

But when I’m in public, I’m on. Truth be told, to the embarrassment of my wife and kids, I start conversations with complete strangers in checkout lines.

Why?

To make contact. To entertain myself and perhaps someone else for a brief moment. To alleviate that awful feeling of ennui and gnawing sense of everydayness. To know I’m alive.

And to let other people know that they are alive as well.

Perhaps because I’ve worked with the public since I was 11-years-old (my folks owned a small ice cream stand), I’m especially conscious of those who toil in service industries.

I’m referring to the shadow people, the folks who often go unnoticed or unappreciated, yet provide the kinds of services that make our lives easier and more pleasurable, from those who pick up our trash (which I did for a while, myself) to those who serve us food.

franciscan-crab-restaurant

Make friends of restaurant staff.

I always ask waiters and waitresses their names, for example, and engage them in conversation, which more often than not instantly changes the entire server/customer dynamic to that of two equals mutually relating in the moment — and taking pleasure in it.

I’ve learned how to harness the power of a sincere “Thank you” — the two most undervalued words in the English language— and been rewarded again and again with countless smiles and acts of kindness.

And when appropriate, I always offer a firm handshake in gratitude.

During one hotel stay, I passed a hotel worker who appeared older than I (and that’s getting on) struggling with a large banquet table. I asked if he could use a hand. He politely declined. But I’d made a friend. Every time this gentle man saw me over the next few days he smiled, called me Mr. Larry, asked how I was, and if there was anything he could do for me.

Not only do such interactions warm the cockles of my heart, they make me feel plugged into my universe. They energize me; give me life.

Don’t get me wrong. Cross me, or catch me on a bad day and I can be as surly and unpleasant as the next guy.

But for the most part I try to live by an adage that some say dates back to Plato and the ancient Greeks: Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Boomer or no boomer, it’s a thought worth shouldering.

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13 Comments

  1. Loved this advice! It’s so easy to get caught up in our own dramas and forget that everyone around us is going through struggles of their own. I especially liked your comments about service workers. I’ve also waited tables, stood behind counters and answered telephones (at a mortuary no less). Too often people who provide these services are overlooked by the people receiving them.

    1. Unfortunately, in that last sentence, “overlooked” is, in many cases, replaced by “abused”. I hate waiting in line to return something and having to listen to a customer berating a minimum-wage clerk because the store policies won’t allow a cash refund when they don’t have a receipt. Once or twice I’ve been “not in the mood” and called out to the clerk “Just call your boss so you don’t get fired”…

  2. Hi Larry,
    Thank you so much for sharing your philosophy. I’ll bet you light up a room when you walk in. We all need to ask ourselves how much better the world would be if we just said hi and smiled more often at the folks we encounter each day. Here’s to hoping we meet up in a checkout line one day!
    All the best,
    Randy

  3. A wonderful reminder. I still (happily) work full-time with a gaggle of young, creative people. I cherish the experience and learn so much from them. It also makes me mindful of what I am teaching them…how to successfully interact with a (sometimes) crazy older person. They humor my lack of tech skills and repeated questions. We are both learning to be patient and kind with each other.

  4. Hi Larry – I’ve never known you to be anything but kind. Having “known” you for over fifty years now (OMG, can that be true!?!?), you have always been an old soul. “Old” in the wise way, not the chronological sense, since all classmates never age to each other. Greeting people in a kind, friendly, open way – one at a time – is such a simple gesture. There’s no need to think of them in any other qualifier (minimum-wage earner, homeless guy, baggy-pants teen-ager, old lady) than fellow human – everyone responds to a smile and a friendly hello. Just this week I was approached at a gas pump by a young man who no doubt wanted me to buy a new windshield because my insurance would cover it. He came up to me and said, “Good afternoon, ma’am. How are you today?” I responded, “Really well, and how is your day going?” He was taken aback and told me no one ever asked him that in return. We engaged in a bit of chit-chat and then I drove off. He was so shocked, it never got around to tell me exactly why he approached me – he did admit though, “Your friendliness put me off my script.” Just a moment in time and a smile. Easy-peasy.

  5. Amen Larry! I do the same thing.. much to the dismay of my wife!
    but what goes around comes around.. and that includes the kindness zen!

  6. Very well written. And so timely. The simplest act of kindness goes a long way.

    Having spent many weeks in hospital with my ailing partner I learned very quickly that a smile, a kind word go so far when caring for someone who is ill. Believe me it makes a world of difference to a frightened, lonely caregiver when a complete stranger takes a moment to chat or just hesitate for a moment and smile.

    We can never underestimate the value of a smile.

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