I’ll call her Lindsay in order to protect the innocent; the only one really guilty of anything was me. You see, I found Lindsay to be annoying — like really, really annoying. The very sight of her drinking water made my skin crawl. Well, it wasn’t just the way she drank the water, it was also the way she poured it. She always poured it into the same orange plastic cup inside which she always placed a straw. As I’d watch that straw bob up and down with the water’s glub, glub, I’d scream in my head, “why aren’t you drinking straight out of the bottle like the rest of us?”
And then she’d begin to sip it. Oh, the way she sipped that water drove me nuts. Though she was very careful to part her bright red lipstuck-lips just so in order to ensure minimal lipstick loss, a ring of redness always stained that straw which – you guessed it – irrationally irked me too.
I know I should have been paying attention to whatever college class I was taking instead of obsessing over Lindsay’s water drinking habits from across the room, but I was young and immature and couldn’t pull myself away. What was worse, the more I watched her the more I disliked her. I never did anything mean to her – you know, I’m not a mean person – but I avoided Lindsay, her orange cup, and straw at all costs.
And then, in a Jewish class I was taking, we started learning about kindness. The rabbi challenged us to do something kind for someone we didn’t like. It’s easy to be nice to people you feel positively about, he explained. It’s even a pleasure. But doing true chesed which comes from the word chasid and means “going beyond oneself,” requires us to show kindness in ways we’d normally try to avoid.
So in the dining hall later that day, as I watched Lindsay aimlessly carrying her tray, I took a deep breath, called out her name and invited her to join me at my table. She happily accepted, and though our meal together required me to watch her drink, by the time lunch was over, my senseless hatred of her had vanished.
Though Lindsay and I never became great friends, from that day on, her water drinking habits never bothered me again. What I realized after doing my chesed experiment was that although the nicest thoughts don’t always come naturally to me, I can go beyond my nature and make sure my actions overflow with kindness like the water did in Linday’s cup.
This article was originally published on www.jwrp.org.