These two simple words are on one of my favorite T-shirts. It’s from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (www.bestfriends.org), and it has a cartoon drawing of a dog and a cat together with these two words underneath. It is so simple and yet so powerful. I was wearing this T-shirt at the workout club the other day and a woman said to me, “So easy to say, but not so easy to do.”
And she was right. These two words – BE KIND – seem so easy. Don’t we all want others to be kind, patient and forbearing with us? Don’t we appreciate it when someone gives us a sincere smile, holds the door when we are carrying heavy packages, remembers to call to ask us how we are doing and generally lets us know they are thinking of us? We are often humbled by those random acts of kindness that someone shows when we are least expecting it.
If we enjoy it so much, how come we don’t consistently show our kindness to others? I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed or otherwise having a bad day, I have to really work hard to keep kindness at the forefront. If I am feeling under the weather, or one of my kids is struggling in some way, I find myself preoccupied and often don’t notice that someone else is in need. Too often, kindness comes “easily” to me only when the rest of the conditions in my life allow it to.
But isn’t it interesting how many times we can be preoccupied with our own thoughts and then hear of another’s distress, and immediately turn to offer kindness where none existed? There must be something inherent in the human condition that does allow us to “turn on” kindness whenever we need to. I’ve noticed this week that on three occasions where I was feeling overwhelmed by many things in my own life, I learned of the tragedies of others: A friend who lost her father unexpectedly. A friend who had cancer return. A friend who had a child try to commit suicide. In all of these situations, at the moment I heard of these tragedies, I completely forgot about my own “problems.” I dropped what I was doing to respond to a friend in need.
How can we do this if we don’t have kindness resident deep within us at all times? I think we just let it get buried because of our haste, worry and stress in the day-to-day lives that we lead. Working in the humane arena, I hear countless stories of people who have stopped whatever they were doing because they needed to respond to an animal who had been abused or abandoned. All of these volunteers lead very busy lives but when kindness is required, they immediately respond without any concern for their own needs or situation.
How can we bring kindness to the forefront more easily during our everyday lives? If we could practice more often, perhaps kindness would become more of the common fabric of how we treat one another. Instead of pushing my way to the front of the line, I’d let you cut in front of me. Instead of feeling the need to tell you off, I’d realize that you, too, are human and we all make mistakes. Instead of pointing out your faults and criticizing what you do, I’d find some way to compliment you in the midst of a disagreement.
Let’s start to practice kindness when we have the chance. Find an opportunity to compliment someone today. Find a couple of minutes to call someone just to say “hello, how are you?” Find time to send a handwritten note to someone to let them know you are thinking of them. If you can afford it, send flowers to someone who is lonely or hurting – or even better, drop a bouquet by their home. Smile at someone who looks sad or distressed. Take the time to ask the person at the checkout counter, “how are you?”
There must be something natural about being kind, because it feels good to us to be the giver of the kindness. Find ways this week to offer kindness to others – and see how it feels for you.Learn More About Pet Adoption