Get ready to mark your calendar because February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness day! What could be any better than a day to celebrate acts of kindness, and if there was ever a time we could all use a little more kindness in the world, I would bet my two cents that this would be it.
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But, what is kindness? I recently typed into Google "What is kindness?". My simple question returned 950,000 results. There were definitions by dictionaries like Cambridge, Oxford, the Urban dictionary and Wikipedia; explanations from countless experts from psychologists to spiritual leaders; thousands of quotes from sources ranging from Greek philosophers to American novelists; and my favorite, and perhaps the most honest, videos of kids explaining what kindness means to them.
As I scanned through these results, I came to realize that there is no single way to define kindness, and trying to find a single definition of kindness I think really minimizes what being kind is really meant to be. Below are a few thoughts about kindness that rang true to me.
Kindness is Personal
What you believe is kind may be different than what another person thinks, and that is okay. An excellent way to create your definition is to think of a time in your life when someone was kind to you. How did it make you feel? That feeling should be your north star for finding your personal definition of kindness - strive to help others feel as good or as special as you did at that time.
Kindness is Different than Nice
The words nice and kind are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Nice is what a person is thinking and feeling in a specific situation. Kind is how you act and why you act this way. I’ve often associated nice with being polite and respectful, and kind with being sympathetic and helpful.
Kindness is Contagious
Spreading kindness is something we should all want to catch. When we are kind, we inspire others to be kind. That’s why any single act of kindness has the potential to start a chain reaction far beyond the original act. The catchiness of kindness is not limited to witnessing it. Reflecting on your past good deeds and how they made you feel can also encourage you to do good again.
Kindness is Easy
Kindness doesn’t have to be planned out or complex. As you go about your typical day, remember the Golden Rule, and seek opportunities when you can apply it for the people you interact with. Simple acts such as smiling, making eye contact, saying thank you and giving a compliment have the potential to brighten someone’s day.
Kindness Starts Within You
Regardless of how you think about kindness, it starts within each of us. Each day we are faced with a multitude of choices, and we have the choice to make our day or the day of someone else a little better. In this fast pace world, where kindness and respect often take a back seat to selfies, self-interest and one-way human interactions, taking a few moments to begin your day with the intent of being kind to others not only brings benefits to those who receive your kindness, but to you as well.
For those who may think I am writing this story because I have mastered the art of being kind, you would be sorely wrong. I write this story because of my own failings. There have been countless times I have failed the kindness test, and every time that I am angry, selfish, or inconsiderate, I am filled with regret. The sad truth is, there will probably be countless more times in my life that I will fail.
Sometimes, kindness can be hard.
There is an old adage that says we don’t feel because of how we act, we act because of how we feel. My brother, Jeff, was a lot like this; he possessed a real, deep felt passion to help those in need, and he consistently put this passion into action in everything that he did. And although he had his own failings, Jeff's love for helping people and communities heal and thrive remained true. What amazes me even more, is that even though it has already been two years since he has passed, his passion lives on in the many people he touched and who sought to touch him. This is the true power of human kindness.
So as we celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, join me in committing ourselves to try and give a little kindness every day. We don't always have to be perfect, we just have to be willing.
What does "kindness" mean to you? If you would like to share, I would love to hear your story. Please leave a comment to this blog story...I only ask you to please be kind ;-)
(to be continued)