Life Lessons From My Dog ~ Simple Kindnesses Go a Long Way

Sometimes the simplest gestures make the most profound impacts……

Somehow we have developed this misconception in our society that in order for something to matter….in order for it to ‘count’….it has to come in some grandiose package. Whether it is buying a gift for someone we know, making plans for that special night out, or making the right first impression, we think bigger is always better. We tend to apply the same mode of thinking when doing things for others, and unfortunately, our grand schemes tend to trip us up. Before we have a chance to be a blessing to someone else, we have talked ourselves out of whatever it was we were planning because it just got too hard. I am just as guilty as the next person for wanting to do too much and finding it impossible to live up to my own expectations. I have learned from watching my little Peanut, however, that simple kindnesses can go a long way in blessing the lives of those around me.

I know what you are thinking. How can a dog show kindness, much less teach others how to show it? I am reminded of a story about a man named Lazarus who sat by a city gate every day. He was ignored by all who passed him because he was disabled and riddled with sores. The only souls who showed him any compassion were the little dogs, who took pity upon him and licked his sores. I know. Gross, right? It was a simple kindness that was profound enough to be recorded in the pages of the Bible. Pretty impressive when you think about it, and pretty humbling when you remember what a simple gesture it was to give poor Lazarus comfort in his suffering.

My little Peanut is an amazing little girl, and yes as her mommy, I am extremely partial to her in every way imaginable. She marvels me every day, however, in the way she is with people. I learn from her so often by observing her and how other people respond to her. When I fell in love with Peanut as a puppy, it wasn’t because she was the most playful, licky puppy in the bunch. She actually was the most quiet, thoughtful one. In fact, as I sat there on the floor amongst her yappy little brothers and sister, Peanut sat there on the floor watching me, as though she was deciding something about me. When she had made up her mind, she walked over to me, through the throng of siblings. She put her two tiny paws on my knee, never once taking her eyes off of mine. It was as if she was asking me to bring her closer. I of course obeyed the silent command, and brought her near. I could smell the sweetness of her puppy breath as she sat there regarding me. She sat there silently, staring into my eyes, as though she sought the very center of my soul. She put her little muzzle to my lips and bumped me, and I knew she had chosen me at that moment. I knew I couldn’t live without this incredible little girl. Peanut was four weeks old, yet I felt the magic in her even then.

So what does all of this have to do with simple kindnesses? Everything! What makes dogs so special…..what makes my Peanut so special is the fact that no matter who you are, no matter where you came from, you are never invisible. Peanut acknowledges everyone around her. When I take her out shopping, she greets the world with her eyes and her cheery face. Every person is worth her glance and acknowledgement. You can see it in their faces as Peanut rolls by, flashing her sweet little toothy smile – each person feels special. Now admittedly, from time to time, there are people who have triggered the growl in Peanut. (I call it her inner bicious. It’s vicious…only grittier.) It doesn’t happen often, but I usually trust her instincts….that she is detecting something about a person I can’t detect myself. When these moments occur, she still is acknowledging the person, even if she is not welcoming them to come say hello.

Acknowledgement is important. We all crave it. We need it as validation of our existence in this world. It hurts when we feel invisible. It is so easy to lift the cloak of invisibility for another person simply by saying hello or offering a smile as you pass by. Think about it. How often do you greet the greeter at the local big box store? How often do you smile at or say hello to the person cleaning the bathroom at your office building? Do you even know their name? Have you ever said hello to the Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas when you didn’t have any change? It is a simple kindness to do these things, to acknowledge the hidden masses of people around you and let them know they aren’t invisible. It takes no effort at all.

Many times when I shop with Peanut, it is like running the gauntlet. I cannot take very many steps without someone coming up and asking to pet her. I love it because it is one of the ways I can show kindness to others by allowing them to share some of the magic of my little girl. Peanut is always so gracious and gentle too. She responds to others’ gentleness as well, and will often lick the hand of those who treat her with a soft touch. It is her way of saying ‘thank you’. It is a simple kindness, and its effect on people is as extraordinary as if she gave them the key to the city. Better even, because I don’t think the city could hold the same appeal. We have lost the habit of saying ‘thank you’ to each other. We tend to take things for granted. We expect things from people because it is their job….because they are supposed to do whatever it is we think they are supposed to do. Serve us, give to us, entertain us, clean up after us. There is magic however in those two simple little words when said with a sincere heart. Thank you. Thank you for putting this report together. Thank you for making my stay so pleasant. Thank you for standing out in the cold and pumping my gas. Thank you for your service. Thank you for doing what I could not or did not do for myself. Thank you just because. You can transform a person’s day with a simple thank you. It is the simplest kindness imaginable and perhaps one of the most powerful.

I could go on and on with examples, but I think the point is made. A simple kindness is something anyone can do. It takes so little effort but can have a huge impact on those around you. It is so easy, a sweet little dog can do it. What holds us back so often is our fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of making a fool of ourselves. Fear of making a mistake or getting it wrong. There is always a chance our kindness will be rejected. It is the risk we take in life every time we step outside our door, but we lose nothing when we reach out to our fellow man and acknowledge in some small way that he or she matters. It is a cup of water to a parched soul. If my little Peanut can boldly approach each day showing simple kindnesses to everyone she meets, the least I can do is try and live by her example. Thank you friends for reading to the end!

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