“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ―
My neighbor brought over dinner the other evening. Our cold weather had arrived. It was her specialty of Tex-Mex (New Mex-Mex?), including the annual holiday batch of tamales. We both are from parts of the country that celebrate with these wonderful delicacies. She had just returned from out of state, taking care of a grandchild in the ICU.
Of course, if you donate an organ, it’s a monumental act of love and sacrifice. But it’s very rare, right? What I’m thinking about are all the little acts of kindness that we all do for each other – these gestures that hold the social world together each day. It’s so easy to take simple gestures for granted if we’re not careful.
“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” ―
Research tells us two things about kindness;
(1) when we do something kind toward others, despite its cost, it stimulates the brain in positive ways.
(2) acts of kindness are contagious – when we experience or witness kindness it makes us happy and to look for ways to repeat similar acts.
One little email or text with a photo makes so much of a difference. It can communicate layers to someone else – maybe at just the right time (theirs, not yours). How about sticking a card or note in the mail, remember the mail? Amazon will sell you Forever Stamps so you will always be ready. I have a friend who used to give me calls when he was driving home from work. What great idea. Use that time for a meaningful purpose. Kindness means the most when it’s not expected. Who in your circle needs some human contact the most right now?
The first place to start being kind is to pay attention. Stop talking, look someone in the eyes, provide the right body language and never try to match with your own example (like a ping-pong game). I often get so wrapped up in my own cares of right this moment that I miss out on really listening. Today, while I was listening, I think I rushed someone out of my office maybe too quickly. Being kind with time can be a tremendous gift in this world full of too much busy-ness.
Being kind takes empathy as well. It’s impossible to know how to be kind when we don’t understand and feel as someone else does. A student and I were talking about her class performance the other day. I was repeating to her instructions and coaching that I had given countless times in class. Why didn’t she hear this the first or fifteenth time? It was very difficult for me to empathize with her panic about passing the next exam. I tried to imagine her as my own child, or myself – much easier to do! When I was in college I needed a lot of help. Of course, this will never happen if you aren’t listening (see above).
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” ―
What do you need to do today to raise your awareness of the situations of others in your circles? How about just stopping, turn everything off, sit on the porch and reflect.
What do you need to do today to feel and understand better? Maybe you could ask someone to tell you (again) their story about what’s happened?
Make a list. What kindness could you carry out today? Put it on your calendar. Maybe your kindness is something you stop doing. Something you stop saying.
Got any tamales you want to share?
“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”