CHOOSE KINDNESS: WHY?
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Last week, November 13, we celebrated World Mindfulness Day just as we have done for the last twenty-two years. Did you know about this? I didn't until I came across it while researching kindness. Does kindness even come up as a topic in your day to day conversations? Certainly, we notice when kindness is missing when someone cuts in front of us in line as if they didn't notice us standing there. Or, speaks over us when we are telling what we think is an interesting story. So we recognize rudeness. But do we recognize kindness? And is it important to recognize it?
Well, twenty-three years ago a group of people from all over the world met in Tokyo, Japan to discuss kindness and its importance in society. In fact, they made a pledge to join together to build a kinder and more compassionate world. Their purpose was to highlight good deeds and kind actions to counteract fear, anger, and hatred. They launched the first Kindness Day on November 13, 1998. Twenty-two years ago. During these twenty-two years, I have seen kindness and courtesy diminish in young people and old, in speech and actions.
I have a plaque on my windowsill placed beside a vase with one white flower that says: Choose Kindness. I love seeing this reminder of my daily intention: to choose kindness. Allow me to share a few examples of how kindness has made an impact on my life.
The dictionary describes a kind act as a kindness you have never forgotten. Imagine a young girl about ten years old who suffers from horrendous painful headaches resting at her aunt's house while her mom is working. Her older cousin is visiting and sees her suffering. He responds by coming to sit by this young girl chatting away about nothing special, but with a kindness that was deeply felt. The young girl, you have probably guessed was me and for me, this act of kindness was magical because my headache just like magic disappeared.
Let's continue and see how a sprinkle of kindness makes a difference here. "When words are both true and kind they can change the world." Jack Kornfield
Some years ago I worked at a Hallmark gift store and sometimes cranky, rude, and impatient customers would come into the store. I found I was affected by their attitude and I was uncomfortable feeling this way. After some thought, I came up with an idea. I would make a true compliment to whoever was rude. True is the important word here. So the first time a customer approached me in an unkind manner I quickly observed him/her and gave a compliment. Something I saw as true for me about their clothing, jewelry, something, anything. Immediately, I mean immediately there was a change of attitude. A smile, a kind word or two. They felt better, and I felt better because of a little kindness. Are you beginning to see how a little kindness can make a difference in everyday situations?
I have heard that kindness is the antidote to fear. Let's see how it worked for me. Years ago I was working with horses. Thoroughbred, 1200 pound, tightly wound animals. Sometimes we would have an owner that brought a horrible and ill-mannered horse to us to train. I am thinking now of Red, who when he came to our barn was a bad actor as a result of some unkind care and training. He was angry and afraid and to make matters worse he would not allow men into his stall. Long story short, I was the elected person to care for Red. Yes, I was afraid but he needed care and retraining. It broke my heart to see the condition he was in and I put my fear aside to help this new charge of ours. Just as I chose kindness to work with our other horses I chose kindness to work with Red so he could put his fears aside to be cared for and retrained to go back to be a winning thoroughbred.
There have been many times of course when I have not been kind and I wore the glasses with a lens of anger and fear. I have learned that when I wear those glasses I create a circle of loneliness, unhappiness, pain, and suffering. I have also learned that I don't like feeling lonely or unhappy. So if I choose to wear glasses with a lens of kindness, gratitude, and happiness I create a circle of well-being, peace, joy, friendship, connectedness, love, and harmony.
It turns out this circle of kindness, gratitude, and happiness is not just my imagination. Over the years many studies have documented the benefits of kindness. Choosing to be kind benefits both the giver and the receiver releasing feel-good chemicals in our brains. Every time you choose to do an act of kindness, choose to speak words of kindness and even choose thoughts and wishes of kindness you change your brain.
Some people think choosing to be kind means you are weak. Maybe a pushover, someone to take advantage of. But, again studies do not support this. Choosing to be kind is powerful and brave. Doing what is right, standing up to a bully, speaking up for yourself takes courage. Making decisions for yourself coming from a place of kindness may be the driving force for making a difference not only in your life but in the world. So open a door, say please and thank you, smile, compliment, hug, tell someone you love them, do a favor, practice gratitude, put your phone down and be with people, laugh a lot, look at people when they speak to you. You will be healthier. In fact, you will have 23% less cortisol which is the stress hormone. It doesn't matter how small your act of kindness is; it is good for you, your brain, your loved ones, and everyone around you.
So, I say Choose Kindness. As Mr. Rogers says there are three things to being successful. One, kindness. Two, kindness. Three, kindness.
Check out the mindfulness meditation on kindness on the meditation page.