Make a ripple.

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In “Sound of Thunder“, Ray Bradbury introduced the idea that one tiny butterfly could have a far-reaching ripple effect on later historical events:

In the year 2055, time travel has become a practical reality, and the company Time Safari Inc. offers wealthy adventurers the chance to travel back in time to hunt extinct species such as dinosaurs. A hunter named Eckels pays $10,000 to join a hunting party that will travel back 65 million years to the Late Cretaceous period, on a guided safari to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex. As the party waits to depart, they discuss the recent presidential elections in which an apparently fascist candidate, Deutscher, has been defeated by the more moderate Keith, to the relief of many concerned. When the party arrives in the past, Travis (the hunting guide) and Lesperance (Travis’s assistant) warn Eckels and the two other hunters, Billings and Kramer, about the necessity of minimizing the events they change before they go back, since tiny alterations to the distant past could snowball into catastrophic changes in history. Travis explains that the hunters are obliged to stay on a levitating path to avoid disrupting the environment, that any deviation will be punished with hefty fines, and that prior to the hunt, Time Safari scouts had been sent back to select and tag their prey, which would have died within minutes anyway, and whose death has been calculated to have minimal effect on the future.

Although Eckels is initially excited about the hunt, when the monstrous Tyrannosaur approaches, he loses his nerve. Travis tells him he cannot leave, but Eckels panics, steps off the path and runs into the forest. Eckels hears shots, and on his return he sees that the two guides have killed the dinosaur, and shortly afterward the falling tree that would have killed the T. rex has landed on top of it. Realizing that Eckels has fallen off the path, Travis threatens to leave him in the past unless he removes the bullets from the dinosaur’s body, as they cannot be left behind. Eckels obeys, but Travis remains furious, threatening on the return trip to shoot him.

Upon returning to 2055, Eckels notices subtle changes – English words are now spelled and spoken strangely, people behave differently, and Eckels discovers that Deutscher has won the election instead of Keith. Looking at the mud on his boots, Eckels finds a crushed butterfly, whose death has apparently set in motion a series of subtle changes that have affected the nature of the alternative present to which the safari has returned. He frantically pleads with Travis to take him back into the past to undo the damage, but Travis had previously explained that the time machine cannot return to any point in time that it has already visited (so as to prevent any paradoxes). Travis raises his gun, and there is “a sound of thunder”.

Bradbury’s genius in considering how small seemingly insignificant changes can alter the future has, of course, become a standard sci-fi plot device. But how about applying the principle to the present. What can we do now to ensure a better future for us all? We can’t possibly know the effect of the small acts of kindness we do each day. But we do know that one kind act leads to another, ever onward, each person touched by kindness more likely to pass it on, creating an entire chain, then web, outward, expanding farther and farther as it goes. That ever-expanding ripple of kindness can perhaps circle the world if we could only track it.

In this heart-warming, and tear-jerking (in a good way) video, one man discovers just how powerful a little gesture of kindness can be.

What can you do today to start ripples everywhere you go?

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Now is the time.

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Many of us carry around the kind things we mean to say or do as some sort of internal To Do list for when we get to it. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year. But if those kind things are what you want to do or say before you have no more chances to do or say them, you had better get on it. The promise of a new day is not really a promise. It is definitely not a guarantee. At most, it’s a hope.

So say those kind words. Do those kind things. Not just because you may not ever get the chance if you wait, but because they will enrich the lives of those other people who have no idea about what thoughts and intentions you are carrying around locked up in your head undisclosed.

ABCs of the heart.

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Reading level, standardized test scores, college prep–more, better, faster. Repeat.

But what of the heart? There is so much to teach a child about the heart:

  • How it breaks when someone you love doesn’t love you back
  • How it thrills to find a kindred spirit
  • How it is comforted when someone simply sits with you and shares space
  • How it hurts when we don’t treat each other with compassion and kindness
  • How it longs to connect
  • How it knows what the brain often forgets–that we are all family

There is no standardized test for kindness, no flash cards for compassion, no prize for finding the lonely person and keeping them company. But these, too, are where a well-rounded education lies. On these lessons, too, depends our future.

Look closer.

 

secretsIt’s so easy to be mad, to rush, to grumble, to push and bluster our way through life without stopping to consider, or even think about, the lives of all the people we brush up against. It might stop us in our tracks if we knew the burdens other people were carrying. It might make us slow down, consider our actions, be kind, refuse to contribute to the existing pain and suffering. If only there were some way to see inside, to know what other people were experiencing. Is that what it would take? In this insightful and powerful video, we learn just that. Would it make a difference if we could actually feel someone else’s pain and sorrow? Would it slow us down to treat each other with kindness? What would it take?

Who are you on the internet?

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How do you behave when you can be completely anonymous? The internet can shield us from face-to-face contact, and for many people that can lead to snark….or worse. As Glennon Doyle Merton points out, the internet itself is neutral. We bring to it what we are. We get out of it what we seek:

The internet is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral—it becomes for each of us exactly what we bring to it. In our real life and our internet life, we live inside whatever we build. Since we are spending more and more of our lives online, our internet selves must be decent, courageous healers so we can inhabit communities of tolerance and humanity.

Here are a few gut checks:

1. Remember, you are what you post.
Integrity means there is not a real-life you and an internet you. The two are one and the same. If you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.

2. Post with intention.
Before you hit send, ask yourself: Why am I sharing this picture, meme, idea, article? Is your true motivation to spread joy, encourage, enlighten, teach? Or is it to brag? To shame someone? If your intention is pure, then the response will be, too.

3. Dispense compassion.
When people express opinions that differ from yours, take it as a chance to grow. Seek to understand over being understood. Be curious, not defensive. The only way to disarm another human being is by listening.

For those of us with Facebook feeds who follow sites other than just friends and family, we can choose whether we follow fake news or hateful sites. Instead, we can choose sites that help expand our knowledge and compassion. Our feeds are like gardens we can choose how to plant.

And we always have a choice of whether we want to pass on snark, or hate, or false information, or sarcasm. Whether we want to pile on a mob mentality of attack and destruction.

We can choose to make our responses to other people’s posts measured and kind, to rely on facts rather than innuendo, and to simply not respond. We can help build the type of world we want to see, right here on the internet.

Say ahhh.

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What if kindness were contagious? Spreading from person to person like the most virulent flu? How might that transform a community or, even, the world?

In this classroom, kindergarteners are spreading kindness all around:

Some people might say that kindness isn’t a characteristic as common to American society as it once was.

Nevertheless, it’s standard procedure for a group of young students in one little corner of Texas County, as Plato Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy Hathaway leads her class in an ongoing project called the “Kindness Konnection.”

Execution of the idea is three-fold: Kids mail cheerful letters to people all over the U.S., take walks to visit elderly “friends” around the Plato community and pick up trash during their outings. The first two aspects allow the students an unusual opportunity to make peoples’ days better.

“We have heard from many people who said they were having a bad day and got a letter,” Hathaway said. “They ask, ‘why me?’ I say we just do it to be nice.”

These five-year olds are spreading ripples of kindness that are reaching out across the country and making other people’s lives better. Those ripples are causing other people to send out ripples and so on and so on and so on. Their teacher marvels at the results of her little kindness experiment:

“I don’t know how not to any more,” she said. “It’s one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done in my life. Instead of just teaching the kids to be nice, we’ve learned what friendship really is.

“We can all make a difference in this world; even a small child has the power to influence others. Kids are the greatest thing in the world, and I love sharing them with people.”

We can all send out ripples of kindness into our world. Those ripples may well create a tsunami of kindness.

Consider the adverb…

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It doesn’t really matter what your New Year’s resolution is, it’s all about the how, not the what. Adverbs are important when it comes down to it.

If your resolution is to lose a few pounds, does it make a difference whether you lose it sensibly or too fast or maybe, even, because you’re ill?

If your resolution is to make more money, does it make a difference if it is done at someone else’s expense or illegally?

No matter what we pick as the what of the resolution, the focus really must be on the how as well. Consider the adverb. The how of things makes a difference.

Generously or greedily. Selfishly or selflessly. Safely or recklessly. Kindly or maliciously. Honestly or dishonestly.

For every action that you can resolve to do, there is a spectrum of hows to reach that goal. Maybe, even, there is a line that can be crossed on that spectrum where the what isn’t important anymore because it involves a how that will make us someone who we don’t want to be.

So, when you’re going about planning your new year, consider what adverbs you want to be a part of it.

Be kind.

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Kindness isn’t something you ponder in your heart. It is something you do–with your hands, with your words, with your gifts. Person to person, face to face. Lift those who have fallen; feed those who are hungry; speak up for those without a voice; reach out to those who feel alone.

In her song, Hands, Jewel reminds us that even when our hands are small, they are the tools we have to help others and we must use them. That is the way we will use our lives to make a difference for the better in the lives of those around us.

When she was 18, pop singer Jewel lived in a van. One day, she walked into a store to shoplift a dress; but looking at her hands, she realized she controlled them. “I realized I was cheating myself.” Here’s a song titled ‘Hands’ with a beautiful refrain: ‘In the end, only kindness matters.”

Listen to Jewell’s beautiful song here. And, today, contemplate her words:

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

Today, be kind. Look for any and every opportunity to make a difference.

 

Show a stranger a little kindness

strangerkindnessHave you ever been at a restaurant or grocery store with a crying or tantrumming child? It’s awful, that feeling of everyone staring at you and blaming you for somehow disrupting their lives. Not to mention, the criticism and judgment! Some people are only too eager to point out just what you are doing wrong and how you shouldn’t be out in public if you can’t control your children. But, sometimes, a stranger reaches out and helps– offers to amuse the baby, gives you a wink of encouragement, tells you they’ve been there, too, and that things will get better. That little act of kindness makes all the difference. We can’t control whether we will run into the kind sort of stranger when we are most overwhelmed. But, we can remember what it was like when someone was kind when we were overwrought and BE that kind stranger to someone struggling. When we remember what a difference that type of kindness made in our lives, we realize that simple things–holding a door for someone carrying packages, smiling when someone is overwhelmed with their kids, offering to help pick up fallen papers– matter tremendously.