Since mid-spring, when feeling intrepid enough to head outdoors (usually still with a mask), we’ve found great fun in exploring little neighborhoods and parks within Columbus. On a recent walk, we found this sign and it has become an inspirational reflection point. It’s a great question to ask ourselves if we are kind, how we express it, and generate ideas of how we can further increase kindness in our communities and the world.
Which brings in our next point, you can’t pour from an empty vessel. Like most things, change needs to start with us as individuals, within our homes, then expanding to our communities and causing a ripple-effect from there. If you think about the antonym of kindness, what is it? It’s not necessarily selfishness or arrogance, it’s meanness. Here’s the thing: if you bully yourself (see Are you a Mean Girl?), how could you possibly be nice to others from a well-spring of compassion and peace?
To neglect or express a rejection of one’s self while performing actions of kindness, usually leads to resentment while trying to people-please. Showing yourself some appreciation and renewing your self with sleep and nutritious food can better equip you to help take care of others.
Kindness starts with a thought and, ideally, ends with action. The action should flow naturally from the source, much like love expressed in words is sweet but is sweeter still when shown. Wishing that the world was kinder is a nice thought, but doing something to start little chain-reactions of kindness is better. Ask recipients of your kindness to ‘pay it forward’.
“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”- James 2:15-16. Translated into plain English, if you see someone in need and think or say to them “I hope you get the help you need” without endeavoring to provide any assistance, what’s the point? and his brother John provides the bottom-line:
“Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18
Ready for Kindness-in-Action?
Be creative in your kindness! Sure, you could buy coffee for the people behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru but let’s dream beyond that.
Quarantine has afforded us time to take closer looks at the possessions within our four walls. Choose something to give away that you no longer need nor want, but that could help another. Shelters routinely need toiletries, combs and brushes, bottled water, twin bed sheets, towels, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and new underwear and socks. Animal shelters could use food, towels, toys, and more. What is extra for you may be essential to someone else.
Volunteer and offer a skill or service free-of-charge. Offer babysitting or to help home-school kids in the neighborhood. Maybe you’re great at graphic design and can help someone starting their new business. If you are a mechanic, offer your assistance. Volunteer an hour of time, or an afternoon, to a food pantry or soup kitchen. Handy with tools? Build something and donate it. Guess what? Even self-quarantining with Netflix binges, you can serve the greater good when you knit or crochet blankets for premature or stillborn babies.
If you’re on a budget, there are still plenty of ideas you could employ. Leaving a positive note or a review for a restaurant or small business can help them out. Let a family with small children go before you in line at the grocery. Beyond saying “hi” and our cursory interactions with others, take time and genuinely ask someone about their day; they are typically grateful that someone expressed an interest in their lives and well-being. Find a cause you’d like to support and take part in their upcoming charity race. Offer an intrinsic “your dedicated hard-work made this project look great” or extrinsic (e.g. “I love your shoes”) compliment to brighten someone’s day. Some say food is love; making a meal for your family, partner, or roommate can remove a task from their list and create positive feelings all-around.
Remember, your small act of kindness can have a phenomenal ripple-effect. Big or small, what is one action you can take today to change your life and possibly the world?