“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop
When we tell our kids, “Be kind,” what we’re really saying is, “Be helpful. Act with others’ feelings in mind.” This is a hard concept to grasp, even for many adults. Shoot, just sitting down to write about kindness, over and over I’ve thought, “Where do I even begin?”
Acts of kindness
Kindness is more intangible than it is tangible. It’s tricky to translate into letters and words on a page. Try asking someone to define kindness, what it means to them, and more than likely, you’re going to get an example rather than a definition. She’ll tell you about the time the car in front of her paid for the drinks at Starbucks, or when a good friend showed up to babysit and sent her out to grocery shop solo on a bad day, or some other such instance where another individual acted in kindness toward her.
“ Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” –The Golden Rule
We learn to be kind by living life – possibly by having The Golden Rule drilled into our head as preschoolers – but mostly, our knowledge of kindness is defined by human experience. We know how it feels when others are either kind or unkind to us, and we pay it forward. We do things to help others feel that lovely, gooey rush we enjoyed when someone did something unexpected for us. That awful, cringing humiliation we endured when someone was unkind can drive our actions as well. Maybe we see another in a similar situation and act in opposition to whomever was unkind to us, trying to spare another person that terrible feeling we hope never to repeat.
Is kindness intentional or reactionary? I think it is a little bit of both. You can premeditate a gift, a charitable donation, volunteering, taking a meal to a neighbor, etc., but I think reactionary kindness may be more important. It’s who we are under fire. It’s being kind when being kind is actually the last thing you want to do. You have to dig deep to do the right thing, the helpful thing, the kind thing.
Kindness is leaving a generous tip for the restaurant server who was rude and inattentive. Maybe she’s working a double shift, or has a sick child at home, or got in a fight with her husband before heading to work today. Kindness is not pitching a fit when you’re stuck behind the coupon lady in line at Walmart. She has a family to feed, and this may be the only way she can afford the groceries.
It starts at home
Kindness is hard to explain, but it’s what our world needs, and it’s what our children need to learn to be. Kindness starts at home. Show your children kindness. If you’re pre-meditating an act of kindness, let them be involved. They can help bake the cookies to welcome the new neighbor. They can choose some of their own clothes and toys to donate to the needy when you’re cleaning out your own closet. Maybe they need to see you keep your cool in an argument and show love under duress. Whoever it is you want them to be, it’s important that they see those traits in you. After all, “Monkey see, monkey do.”
Let it give us hope
Kindness is “on trend” right now. Disney’s 2015 re-make of Cinderella taught us to, “Have courage, and be kind.” Our city is taking on a city-wide initiative to #bekind, and you can see a kindness movement on social media, where there are viral videos of people performing acts of kindness – giving to families in need, feeding the homeless, visiting sick children in the hospital. It’s heartwarming. It gives us hope. Kindness may just be the perfect prescription to heal our broken world.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” –Princess Diana