(Commentary) - Kindness. It’s a relatively simple word, but can have deep meaning if you embrace it.
National Random Acts of Kindness day lands in February every year. Simply put, it is a day to remind people, organizations and groups to practice courtesy, grace and benevolence to others. In fact, there’s an entire non-profit organization committed to teaching kindness.
Kindness is the quality or state of being kind (of a sympathetic or helpful nature), according to Merriam-Webster. But, what does that really mean? Are there rules for being kind? Are there times when doing so is more important? The answer is in you and in your heart.
Have you heard the phrase “pay it forward?” That may be one way to look at how infectious offering a nice gesture to someone may be. For instance, this old Liberty Mutual commercial illustrates how one act of kindness could propel others to “pass it on.”
Does that give you “all the feels?” Perhaps it touched your heart? “The best and more beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart,” Helen Keller once said.
And, of course, many of us want to try to fix someone or offer some sort of advice when all they really need is support.
That can be a tough one for some of us. The person who cut you off in traffic may be in a hurry to tend to an emergency somewhere. You really don’t know. The person at the store with one item may be late for work. You never know. The person who just doesn’t want to talk may be dealing with a private and personal crisis. It’s always hard to tell, but is more common than you may think (unless you’ve been in their shoes). The person who left his or her bright lights on and temporarily blinded you may be on the way to a hospital to visit a sick loved one. Who really knows.
Before reacting to these and other uncomfortable situations, take a moment to realize you probably don’t know what’s swirling around in the offender’s head and try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The urge to help fix someone many times has to be pushed aside for a moment and replaced with support. A hug, a smile or kind words can be catalysts for a road to a better mood or the beginning of the healing process.
Or how about this quote from American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
Sure, she was a master wordsmith, but that’s pretty simple. Yet, do we think enough of the simple things? What if we took a step back, put our needs on hold and did what we could to be there for others? It may take some work at first, but if we stopped and prioritized others before ourselves, it may become habit.
And if you think you don’t have it in you, try again the next day. Remember, a smile, a hug, a touch, uplifting words or simply listening doesn’t cost a cent. But the payoff can be extraordinary.
The beauty of life and of our decisions is that there are many directions we can go in at any given moment. If one of your goals is being kind, perhaps you can make the day of someone who may be going through a hardship you know nothing of. Or maybe, just maybe, your own kind act will energize you and get you through that hard day. Infectious to others? Yes! But have you thought of your own consequences?
Practicing kindness might just change your life. It might just create a habit you don’t ever want to break.
If you get a chance, pay it forward. Don’t expect credit for offering up a listening ear, a beautiful smile, a hug or a touch or any kind act. However, the effect it can have on you and your recipient can be powerful. You don’t know where or when the opportunity will arise. And you certainly won’t ever even know how your kindness will impact others. And that’s okay. You don’t need that affirmation. But the simple fact that you offered something you may not have before could have a profound effect on your life and the rest of the world.
Looking for creative ways to be kind? Here are some ideas from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.