Kindness Transcends Language

15 September 2017



There are hundreds of languages, dialects, and tongues. Scientists have said math is the universal speech. While I was inclined to agree, I have found there is another possibility.

In Hawaii, it can be difficult to find apartments. Housing is costly, and space is limited therefore many people live in confined, shared spaces. Folks with larger homes create studio apartments. These residences or “Ohana homes” are attractive. My apartment is one of these "Ohana homes," with my landlord living above me. Adjacent to my apartment lives another family, and we share a washer, dryer, and parking.  There is a language barrier because my landlord and neighbor speak broken English, but it has not stopped our interactions from being pleasant.

One encounter sticks out in my mind. My neighbor had placed her laundry in the washer but had forgotten to start it. I went to her house and noticed she and her family had left. Because they keep their detergent next to the washer, I poured some in and hit the start button. When I got back home later, I found a bakery box attached to my door. Along with the delicious food, it had a note. I won’t say I wasn’t a little skeptical of hanging pastries on my door. So, I promptly spoke with my landlord, for which she told me my neighbor was grateful for helping her with the laundry.

I didn’t see my neighbor until later in the week. She smiled at me and exchanged the smallest of nonverbal communications.  I thanked her for the pastries, and she smiled. Kindness does not need to be spoken in the same language to be understood.

We live in a world today connected to more cultures than in previous generations. Despite the advantage, we do not act like it. Though my neighbor did not need to buy me a cake slice, she did. Her kindness transcended our language barrier. This small act had a profound impact on me. Recently I had missed a few deadlines at work. I will admit, I was feeling down. The kindness we shared raised my spirits. I could put those feelings of failure aside. 

We do not always know where people are in their lives. Every day, we have opportunities to make impacts. We don’t have to speak the same language to accomplish this. Small encouragements can leave huge impressions. Whether it is pressing start on a laundry machine or dropping off pastries, people are impacted by other people. Math or language means nothing without the individuals utilizing their ability. Kindness is the real common language that can be spoken by everyone. No matter who you are, being kind to each other will be understood.  Seek out these openings and see the effect you have.

I hope to see you on the path…