Some people are quick to classify themselves as “kind” even though they may not exactly embody what kindness entails in their everyday interactions. We only need to consider how we speak to our family members, how we view the people on the streets, what we have on our plates, or how we drive to understand where kindness may be lacking. But there are also so many of us who do not care much for labels or classifications, but rather focus on actions. Such individuals usually transform their lives to be a reflection of kindness.
In this article I want to explore with you the therefore the many sides of kindness, to understand what it really is and how we can live it.
In a common dictionary, kindness is defined as the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane and sympathetic.
How many of us feel we exhibit THAT on a regular basis?
It seems so simple. It feels so good and yet the truth is that it too often does not happen enough or around the ones close and dear to us, let alone strangers.
I believe that one of the greatest steps to a higher state of being and our human evolution is the idea of empathy. Empathy evokes kindness and kindness changes lives.
Thus today let us examine the idea of kindness and see how we can become part of never ending acts of kindness for the world around us and ultimately ourselves.
“Kindness – The quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane and sympathetic.”
Based on this definition, I imagine most people do not have a hard time being warmhearted, considerate or sympathetic at least some of the time.
Perhaps you were there for a friend when they needed a shoulder to cry on. Perhaps you gave someone just what they have been waiting their whole lives for. Or perhaps you have extended yourself to another, when it was least convenient for you.
But how about the humane part? This part of kindness speaks the loudest to me because as civilized as we think we are, want to be and perhaps should be, there are still so many acts happening today that cannot be called anything close to humane.
Be it the treatment of minority groups, animals, children, co-workers, friends or family members. The examples are too numerous to name and one need not look far or big, or go to an underdeveloped country to witness inhumane acts being done to them or around them. They are all around us. Perhaps what hurts the most too, is when they are done by people who classify themselves as “kind”, but have truly forgotten what that means.
Thus may we be inspired to live out kindness not as a state of mind, but as a state of being. And may we truly embrace kindness and live it out in its full potential at all times of our lives. It really isn’t as hard as many may think.
Over the Christmas holidays I had a chance to go on a trip to Cuba. I have been there several times before and I have to tell you I really enjoy their climate and culture. The people are some of the warmest and kindest that you will ever meet. They are also some of the poorest. Many of us cannot even imagine how these people live day to day.
Well the first few times that I went, when I was in my early 20′s and going more for the sun, music and dancing, the Cuban people really did not cross my mind much, if at all. Sure we heard that it is good to take some stuff, like toothpastes or old cosmetics and leave them for the maids, but that was really the extent of it.
It wasn’t until I went a few more times and got to know some of the people that I begin to see that there is more that I can be doing than just going down there for my own personal vacation, while they served on me hand and foot and went home to places we would not even call our sheds. Something just did not seem right with that picture any more.
Thus as much as I want to see many islands and different places in the world, when I went there last about 2 years ago I knew that I wanted to come back to Cuba at least one more time. This time I had a bigger mission. As much as I knew that I would still enjoy the sun, music and dancing, my other leading thought was the Cuban people.
It has for some time now been my dream to go, not with a suitcase full of my clothes for me to change 2 times a day, everyday, but with a suitcase full of stuff for THEM. Well this holiday season I got to realize that dream. I went with a suitcase overflowing with stuff and came back with it 1/3 full.
And as much as I have great memories of the beach and the sun, I have to tell you my most memorable day of this vacation was when we went off the resort and into town and randomly gave things away. The feeling was honestly pure bliss! The appreciation and the look on these people’s faces was something I will carry in my heart forever. My only wish is that I could do it more and it is that feeling that I want to keep throughout the year to see how I can do the same perhaps in my own area.
Although looking back now I wish I had given them even more, I am so grateful for the experience I had. It is funny you know, how the more you give, the more you realize you have to give – an amazing feeling nonetheless!
So, the holidays have just passed. This is usually the time when many of us can be the kindest we are all year. Yet at the same time, in so many ways, this can also be a time when many of us forget real kindness and apply a lot of pseudo-kindness to our lives.
For the most part, the holidays do seem to bring out the best in people. You may have found yourself or others humming or singing along merrily to Christmas carols. You may feel more cheerful as you anticipate the surprises you are planning or ones that may be coming your way. You may find yourself donating money or goods to different charities. You may do some volunteer work, etc.
As many people get wrapped up in joy, kindness seems to be so much easier to show and extend to others.
However at the same time, I am sure you may have had more people cut you off while driving, try to cut in front of you in line or get more frustrated with you at this time of the year than any other.
As many people get wrapped up in stress and “doing“, kindness seems to be so much harder to show and extend to others.
No matter what your own state was over the holidays, I hope that you take with you two messages which I hold very true and dear to my heart:
- You cannot imagine the impact each and every one of your words or actions has on others (no matter how insignificant you think they are) AND
- Kindness should not be a “season”, but a year round, life event that is our nature
I know so many of us often forget or perhaps do not even realize how our words and/or actions can affect others. Our words and actions have the power to sting or soothe, anger or overjoy, upset or calm another. The things you say to those around you can potentially mean the difference between a “good” day or a “bad” day. The things you do for those around you can potentially mean the difference between a moment full of happiness or one full of sadness. Ultimately it comes down to so much more than self-control, but as always it comes down to being conscious of ourselves.
Although each of us is in charge of ourselves and does not have to be affected by what another does or says, until the majority of the world attains such personal mastery, the truth is that many out there are VERY affected by another’s words and/or actions.
Thus parents and teachers, think of your children. Think of all the things that you say to them each day, which moments are they leading them to?
Spouses and partners, think of each other. Think of all the things that you say and do for each other each day, which moments are they quantifying for you?
Customers and consumers, think of all your service staff. Think of all the things that you say to them, what state are you leaving them in?
Ultimately one does not need to be labelled as anything, we each come across many people and species each day and we should all be conscious of the words and actions that the world is getting from us. I am sure you know how good it feels to be the recipient of an act of kindness and how much that puts you in a more motivated position to continue the effect – remember Pay it forward? That is exactly what we can be part of each day, and it is no coincidence when kindness keeps on coming right back to us.
As for time, as wonderful as it is that around the holidays we exhibit more kindness than perhaps at any other time, kindness should not be a holiday. Each and every single one of us would love to be treated with kindness each day.
If you held more doors for others during the holidays, hold even more doors open the rest of the year.
If you donated some of your time or money to various organizations during the holidays, do not forget that they exist all year.
If you were extra patient and loving with your family and friends during the holidays, be even nicer the rest of the year.
Kindness is within us. It should not take a break nor should its effects ever be forgotten.
We can all change the world, one person and one moment at a time and so I invite you to try to live out never ending acts of kindness in each and every day you live.
As my favorite quote goes, “be the change that you want to see in the world” by Gandhi.
There is always someone in need of a smile or a hello. There is always someone who would appreciate having a door open for them. There is always someone who just needs to be treated like a human being – looked at with love and compassion for the magnificent being that they are. And we are all magnificent – no matter what.
Enjoy living out never ending acts of kindness and feel free to share some of your own personal examples to inspire and motivate others to see the amazing world that they are living in! y m