As I've grown older, I've come to think of kindness as a long term investment. To think of human interactions in economic terms may be crass, but those with no kindness to spare, ever to anyone, are so often crass. I've often succumbed to that line of thought before, and from thought I have slipped to inaction. It's not so much that I've often acted with cruel intent as that I've let myself miss opportunities to share kindness with others. The crass, selfish voice in my head will tell me, 'What's the point? There's nothing they can do for you!' and in my worse moments I have missed opportunities to go beyond the bare minimum.
Yet I myself remember no one who did the bare minimum for me.
I now remember those who were kind to me over the years. I remember the girl from elementary school who made sure I got home the first time I rode the bus in first grade and got on what she knew was the wrong bus. I remember the parents of a friend who made sure I was fed and reasonably hygienic when I was staying by myself with my show animals at the county fair. I remember the aunts and uncles who had time to listen to my when I was a precocious and obnoxious young man. I guess I remember the times when people were cruel, but only a little bit; mostly I remember people who were kind. I try to pay them back as best I can, with time and greetings and (especially) what help I can provide them in life.
To call kindness a currency may be crass, but it's also true. Kindness is a currency that's never in short supply, yet never gets devalued. The kindness we invest today may not payoff for years to come, but I think the investment always pays in the end, one way or another. I've been surprised by people who remember me for my own acts of kindness, often from long ago. Even when I don't remember why they think I'm owed a favor, I'm glad to know that I did the right thing in the past. Doing the right thing is its own reward, but there are other rewards, too.