Be kind.

kind

As we bump and bustle our way through life, we often don’t notice other people much, maybe never pause to wonder what they may be going through in life. Usually they are just the person in the way, or the one in front of us in line, or the one who is doing a dismally poor job of getting our order right. But if we could step back and see their interior lives, we may get a whole lot of patience in a hurry. Everybody is carrying a load of some kind. Everybody hurts.

Or, as Jon Pavlovitz says in this insightful article, everybody grieves:

If we could keep this reality in the forefront of our mind as we make our way through the hustle and bustle, we would be gentler, kinder, more patient. And that would do a world of good for our weary world.

Spread ripples.

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In a world where you can feel small and anonymous, never forget that you can make a difference. The little kindnesses you put out in the world inspire other such acts and so on and so on, rippling ever outward. Those ripples together make for a kinder gentler world.

In the video below, watch how the kindness ripples through a community and consider how you might add your own kindness ripples into your day.

 

Going counter-culture.

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Is kindness passé? Patience out of date? Love revolutionary? In today’s world, these virtues seem counter-culture. People are quick to be mean, impatient for their own way, and blinded by hate. The loudest rant dominates over the considered opinion.

In this commencement speech, Jake Tapper urges the graduates to be kind, to shy away from meanness, the easy and lazy option:

How can we go that extra distance to show up in this world as kind and patient, to refuse to meet meanness with meanness, but instead with the loving response?

Err in the direction of kindness.

direction of kindness

What do we regret most as we contemplate the end of our time here? Maybe the lesson from that regret can inform our present. In an outstanding commencement speech, George Saunders reflects on his own failures and encourages the graduating students to look for opportunities to be kind. He reflects on a memory haunting him from his childhood:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

We all have so many opportunities to make a difference, just by simply being kind, offering a smile, reaching out in friendship. And, when we reflect on the kindnesses that have made the difference to each of us in our own lives, we realize those little shows of kindness are what matter.

Saunders continues to remind each of us that our inner selves, our souls, shine as brightly as ever, and, even as we strive for success, to keep checking in with that inner place, and to believe it exists and greet the world from there:

Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

When you are confronted with a choice, err in the direction of kindness.

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Look at your world from a larger perspective.

roots

Remember Admiral Stockdale’s opening in the 1992 vice-presidential debate? No? Here it is:

 

Who am I? Why am I here? Important questions we can each ask ourselves everyday. What is our purpose for being?

Sometimes we can be so caught up in the day to day, we forget the big picture: that what we do today affects future generations, that our actions have ripples that spread ever outward and touch people we will never know, that everyone here on this planet has as much purpose and reason for existing as we do.

We are both trapped in time and timeless. Now is our canvas. But the past has brought us to where we are, and the future will see our masterpiece. How will we choose to paint it?

 

 

 

 

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Plant your seeds.

harvest

Doing the right thing, the kind thing, the compassionate thing is an act of faith. You may never see the results of your action. You may never know that your courage in doing the right thing inspired someone else who, without that example, may have chosen the expedient thing, or the self-serving thing, or the popular thing. You may never know that the kind words you said gave someone an affirmation they desperately needed. You may never know that your kind thing spread exponentially outward into a billion kind things. You may feel that doing the right thing cost you somehow or was foolish or self-destructive. But you know it is the right thing, so you do it because you have faith that it will make a difference.

Those seeds of kindness that you sow take on a life of their own. They couple with other kind things and spread, though that may be largely invisible to you. Take heart from this video of a seed sprouting. Have faith that what you do makes a difference.

And remember, as stated by Cynthia Occe, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

 

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Give light.

givelight

Stumbling around in the dark can be painful, dangerous, and frustrating. We bump into stuff; we get lost; we despair. We lose our bearings and do not know how to get where we are trying to be.

But we each can help by lighting the way–with our words and actions. Consider kindness, for example, and how it can shine light on a very dark situation. In a story now going viral, a woman shared about how she was young in an elevator with her mother, who was berating her. As they left, a stranger whispered to her, “It’s not you; It’s her.” Just those five words of encouragement helped her to see beyond the horrid situation she found herself in and to buttress herself against the abuse rather than assuming, as all children do, that her mother was correct in the condemnation. She found hope:

“When life gets really dark, when she hears her (inner) mother’s voice telling that she’s sh*t, she can’t do it, or to just plain give up,” Solomon writes, “she then sees that stranger’s face as the door closes in front of her.” In fact, sometimes, Solomon says, “it’s the only thing that keeps her going.”

Think of the power you have just with your ability to be kind to someone who desperately needs it! What a gift it is to have eyes that can see suffering and to be able to help. That ripple of kindness never stops.

 

Choose kindness.

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So much of our suffering is invisible. Loneliness, sorrow, depression, not fitting in. We can bind up our own cuts and scrapes, but how do we bind up those kind of wounds?

There is an old parable about heaven and hell. In both, people are forced to eat with spoons that are too long to feed themselves. In hell, they are starving. In heaven, they feed each other.

When it comes to these invisible hurts, we are healed by kindness, one to another. We don’t know when we are being kind that it may help someone, but it certainly can’t hurt. And it may be just the long-spooned nourishment that someone else needs.

To inspire acts of kindness today, watch this video of a poor baby elephant stuck in a muddy hole. The gratitude its mother shows its rescuers will melt your heart.

 

Consider the potential.

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The potential for a loving relationship is in one embrace. The potential for peace is in forgiveness. The potential for harmony is in stillness. The potential for quality conversation is in listening.

Consider the opportunities you have to make your world and the world a better kinder place with the actions you sow today.

Be kind.

bekind

In a world of senseless violence and hate, you can make a difference.

Be kind.

In a world grieving, you can make a difference.

Be loving.

In a world angry and looking for someone to blame, you can make a difference.

Be gentle.