Lead With Kindness

Transitions can be tough when they’re bad or good. Even when you plan it out and it seems as if you have it all figured out, life can throw a mean curveball your way and strike those plans out. This has happened to me several times in life, but one time in particular, the strike out worked in my favor.

Photo by Brett Jordan

Leaving the Blue

Back in 2011 I decided my time in the Air Force was coming to an end. I was doing all the necessary things to ensure I landed on my feet when I got out. I had a job lined up with the Army Corps of Engineers near where my wife was stationed, I was a brand new dad, and everything seemed to be falling into place. I applied to other jobs just in case, but I was told that I was a lock for the one near my wife’s base. Then, all my calls and emails to the Army Corps of Engineers were getting ignored. By chance, 2 weeks before my last day I saw the guy that told me I was a lock, he decided to go with someone else and just didn’t tell me. 

I returned home after running into that guy and went to apply to more jobs and saw that I received an email for a job in San Antonio. I was ready to accept it before they even offered it to me, but I responded cool and told the guy I’d be ready for an interview whenever he was available. The next day was a Saturday and the hiring manager sent me a text at 8 am to see if I was ready at that moment, of course I was, so I did the interview over Skype, and it went really well. Upon checking my references, a friend of mine was contacted because her friend was the team lead on the project, so I got the job…930 miles away from my wife and newborn.

Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness to change a person’s life

Jackie Chan

The Moves

Three weeks later I drove to San Antonio with an air mattress, two pillows, and six outfits. I already had an apartment lined up and I spent my first weekend stocking up on cheap essentials at the dollar store. As the new guy I met everyone and there just so happened to be a birthday party for my coworker Mo that coming weekend. The party was cool, it felt like I was fitting in with the group, it wasn’t forced, and it didn’t feel like an energy drain to be around them. As an introverted guy, that’s rare. Mo took me under his wing at work and everything was cool for about two weeks.

I learned that the position I was hired for was going to end in 30 days, and I’d be looking for a job again. I began looking for jobs all over San Antonio, but the only call backs were coming from Washington, D.C. A week after finding out this job was ending, I was accepted for a job in Alexandria, VA so I immediately told the leasing office I needed to leave because of what happened. They were cool, but said I only had 6 days to get all my stuff out or I would have to pay 2 months of rent and no return on that deposit. Coincidentally, there was a guy that I worked with for a year that had a summer home in San Antonio that offered me an opportunity to stay there, but when I tried to take him up on it, he ignored my calls.  I spent the next 3 evenings looking for temporary housing wherever it was available to avoid the steep hotel costs since it was also spring break. The next day, Mo said he’d talk it over with his wife, but he was sure she’d be cool if I stayed with them until I had to leave. I said OK but didn’t think she’d be cool with having me stay there for 3 weeks. I was wrong. 

In those 3 weeks we talked a lot, they had another party, we found out his wife was pregnant, we did a pub crawl for Saint Patrick’s Day and just kicked it. Basically, we packed in a whole lot of kicking it until I had to leave. It was a sad day for me and them when I loaded my car up and left their home. I got to know them and their kids and be part of their family when I couldn’t be with my own. They barely knew me and treated me better than folks I had known for years. They wouldn’t even let me pay for anything while I was there. That experience changed the way I viewed a lot of things. I became a better human being because of their kindness and generosity. There’s no way I could ever repay them for the overall impact, but I made one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever made in life for them before I left. 

The Impact

I haven’t seen them since 2011, but I’ve told quite a few people the story of how it all went down. I’m forever grateful for what they did for me in that moment when I didn’t have a lot of good options. I have paid their generosity forward a few times, and it’s always with them in mind. Tina, Mo’s wife, recently lost her father and though I’ve never met him and haven’t seen her or Mo in a decade, I sincerely felt sadness in my heart when I found out from one of her social media posts. I always thought, “her parents must be good people to instill that level of sincere kindness”, so I feel the world lost a good one. 

All that to say, you never know the impact your actions whether big or small, can have on someone. I’m not saying be kind to everyone for the potential gratitude, I’m saying be kind because it’s the right thing to do. To the people that have stayed with me rent free, received money from me regularly, homeless people that I take to lunch or anyone cashing in on my seemingly endless patience, you have Mo and Tina to partially thank for that. 

So, if Mo or Tina ever read this post, thanks, for me and on behalf of the people your generosity influenced me to help along the way.

One comment

  1. […] took a job in San Antonio for a short period of time and I learned a very valuable lesson in kindness as well as a valuable lesson in the civilian job world, they care a lot less. I moved to the […]

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