I recently learned a lesson in kindness. It was an obvious lesson that I’ve learned a million times, but a reminder is always welcome and often needed. To give some backstory, I live in a condominium complex that has several elderly residents. I also work from home and have a dog. A quick walk around the complex and through the courtyard is always a nice break in the day. It gives me fresh air, lets my dog Spike expel some energy, and allows me to clear my head. I can’t tell you how many times a quick walk outside had completely changed my mood.

Over the last several years, I’ve learned to time my walks to avoid certain neighbors. I want to point out, I have no issues with my neighbors, there’s just some I prefer to talk to more than others. In the case of taking walks during the work day, I try to avoid being away from my desk for long periods of time, so it becomes necessary to avoid some of the more talkative neighbors. Jim was one of those neighbors.

I don’t know much about Jim, other than he was older, had cancer in his legs, lived alone, and loved dogs and old signs. His condo was covered with old garage-style signs. Every time he’d see me walking by he’d stop me to follow him back to his place so he could give Spike treats. It got to the point where if we were walking next to Jim’s building, Spike would look towards his door to see if maybe it was a treat day. Every time we’d visit, he’d ask if Spike remembered him.

There were some days where I didn’t have time to stop and talk to Jim. On those days, if I saw him out and he did not see me, I would purposely change my route to avoid him. I was never mean or rude to him, I just felt it would be easier to avoid him than tell him I didn’t have time for him that day, and there were many days where I’d be booked in meetings all day and the 10 minute breaks were all I had.

A couple of weeks go by with no sight of Jim. That’s not totally abnormal, but still sat in the back of my mind. Fast forward to this week. When talking to a neighbor, I jokingly (trust me, I regret this) said that I was going to take Spike for a walk and hoped that Jim wasn’t out so I could get back in time for the Blues game to start. That’s when I found out Jim died. That’s why he hadn’t been around in a couple of weeks.

All this week I’ve been feeling the guilt of those times I avoided Jim on my walks. Why did I have to avoid him? Couldn’t I have shown just a little more kindness and stopped by whenever he was out instead of avoiding him? He just wanted someone to talk to. Someone to remember him. Isn’t that what we all want? I’m sorry, Jim. Thank you for the reminder to do better.