Kindness… especially in a world that feels so turbulent and divided, is it enough? Does it matter? What is it? How is it related to and different from compassion, empathy, and love? And, maybe even why bother? We may feel it’s too late for that and that we’re way past the point where kindness matters. But, are we?
I don’t think so! And yet, with climate crisis looming, war raging, Covid still here and perhaps spiking again, overdose deaths at an all-time high, division and injustice in too many spaces to name, kindness might sound like a feeble, impotent, inadequate thing. I almost dare not write about this in a world that is raging.
“Kindness.. are you serious?” I imagine someone scoffing.
“Yes, kindness,” I say. What if kindness is exactly the medicine we need right now? Can you imagine what it would be like if each person in the world took time to offer just one act of kindness each day? That would be 7.9 BILLION acts of kindness! Don’t you think that might just change the world?
Even “small” acts of kindness and tenderness can have a great impact and ripple out in ways we will never know. That extra tip you left the waitress? Who knows what that will do. The smile or kind word you offered that stranger… who knows…? The adult who took the time to ask the “disruptive” child what was going on, and really listened? They may have just changed that child’s world by taking the time to see and hear the person beneath the behavior.
Kindness need not be complicated, expensive, or fancy. And, here’s a place where “Just do it!” is good advice! Make the call. Send the text. Write the card. Hand over a few bucks without expectation. Share a cookie.
What causes and issues speak to your heart? What’s meaningful to you? Kindness does not have to be a grand gesture – it can happen in your home, neighborhood, school, or community. It matters. You can’t save the whole world, but you can bring kindness to your tiny corner, one act at a time.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
This is a poem I need to sit with to even try to understand…
You can take a listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with Naomi Shihab Nye here – it’s beautiful.
Here are a few places where you can dip into kindness and be part of a kindness wave:
Random Acts of Kindness
More Love Letters
Kindagious, founded by my friend, Jennifer Jines who is a mighty kindness ambassador – they even have free e-cards on the site! Who could you send one to today?
You Matter Marathon
And a little music to support you as you sit with kindness…
Michael Franti & Spearhead I’m On Your Side
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water
My invitation to you today…
Sometimes we don't share kindness because we're afraid we might get it wrong or it might feel awkward. So, I invite you to take a risk and offer a kindness to a stranger or a friend. Be willing to say the wrong words or offer the wrong action, but be willing to get it wrong from a heart-centered place, with pure intention, and care, and do it anyway. If you’re feeling burned out or depleted, then begin with yourself – offer yourself some TLC. And let’s see if the world gets a little brighter.
Here's a little music to support and inspire you!
How do you offer kindness? Please share so that we can gather some new ideas and try them out ourselves!