Being a gentleman is a matter of choice, so is being happy, being productive, being a person who makes a difference. It is easy to hurt, easy to be impatient, condescending, or even mean. Many fail to see the waters beyond their moat.
It takes a little bit of courage and a lot of awareness to be kind. But it gets easier with practice. The guy begging for money or the older person moving slow, seem to cross our path when we least are thinking about being kind – I have learned to see them as opportunities to build the calmness in me I want to exude, and to exercise the random acts of kindness philosophy an often tension filled community, and most people in it, needs.
I don’t know who said “The greatness of a man can nearly always be measured by his willingness to be kind.” It has been in my head since I first realized Rheumatoid was turning me mean, impatient, with a focus that was narrowing with each new pain pill, transfusion and shot. Then I broke my back, and the hours in waiting rooms accumulated.
We are all fighting battles. Usually, we have no idea of the story and the strength of the person sitting next to us, walking slowly or being gripped by challenges that a kind word could lighten. I listen, I write, I learn:
When I was 14, I worked after school at a downtown convenience store at Ontario and St Clair, where the Society Bank / Keybank Tower building is now. I refilled pop shelves, mopped floors and tried to stay out of the way of the owners, two wonderful mom n pop store owners who were so kind to give me a job, and a pop and sandwich at the end of the shift, before I walked through the ghost town that was public square on my way to the rapid and the train ride home. I rarely ever saw a soul between the store and the train, though my imagination saw many.
Now Public Square is a showplace, it shines with great light, real, inspirational and transformative. There is an abundance of open spaces, platforms for conversation, music, movies and food. I contrast the two in my mind, symbolic as well as functional. The gateway to Cleveland, from cities and countries afar that Terminal Tower was and to a lesser degree, still is, from my immigrant store owners to my immigrant parents, to those fueling Cleveland today in ways not seen here in near on 100 years.
Cleveland is doing things differently, and we can feel the difference, we can see it outside our window and our ivory tower. The physical form changes our minutes, perhaps even our hours. We don’t keep our head down when the square approaches and we aren’t aiming to pass through; it is a destination now. The parking lot adjacent to the northwest corner of the square has signed a new agreement for development.