Toward the end of my days as a firefighter/EMT in Providence, RI things had turned pretty grim. Bitterness had crept into my psyche, anger and resentment too. How could the job I loved have turned against me, I wondered, every day worse than the one before it. The administration was clueless, the union indifferent and the people who called 911 incessantly for non emergencies increasingly belligerent.
What was a disgruntled employee to do?
The only thing I could. I took one call at a time and treated whomever called with kindness. I made up my mind that no matter who called or why I wouldn’t judge, wouldn’t pontificate about the abuse of the 911 system and wouldn’t act like an ass when somebody demanded a ride to the ER for a hangnail.
The results were remarkable. Assholes turned into people, morons got bright, complainers complained a little less, and most important I found contentment, which in turn got me through the last three years of what I had turned into a miserable career.
The power of kindness cannot be understated. Situations that had spiraled out of my control because of my poor handling of them became manageable. I didn’t have to sacrifice my dignity, allow people to abuse me or turn the other cheek. All I did was be nice to people.
And most of the time, they were nice to me. The ones that weren’t were beyond my reach, and I was able to handle their presence without taking it personally, and get on with my day.