Today is World Kindness Day. Begun by the World Kindness Movement (a coalition of organizations promoting kindness throughout the world) in 1998, the goal of the day is to promote a kinder world. Organizations and schools plan a variety of events such as handing out cards and flowers, organizing flashmobs or even a giant group hug. It is a day to set aside differences and unite in the common goal of being kind.
I don’t think the world has even been in more need of kindness than it is today. We need to look beyond ourselves. See all people as world citizens. Search for our commonalities. Let go of the past, not hold onto feuds, especially those between our ancestors. We need to be joiners, not dividers.
While setting aside a day to be kind, the goal should be to carry the concept over beyond the day. We need to make a conscious effort to not fall back in to the same patterns, but to continue to be kind. Is important that we see others as having equal value and potential.
Kind acts can be big or small. Some groups are planning large events such as handing out small gifts like candy or flowers to thousands of people, organizing a giant group hug or flash bob dance. Schools may participate by planning group activities involving service or donations or making note of good deeds performed. Those looking for organized efforts can contact a member organization of World Kindness USA, a non-profit organization works to support and encourage kindness in the United States through cooperation with organizations and community groups, local governments and even individuals.
Some suggestions to spread kindness today and every day:
- smile at someone
- give a sincere compliment
- say hello
- provide assistance or support
- avoid gossiping, making negative comments
- pay it forward (feed a meter, pay for the next person at the drive through or toll)
- let someone go ahead of you in line
- recognize good service (some companies reward employees for customer comments)
- send a “thinking of you” card
- pick up trash
- donate gently worn items you no longer need
- forgive someone (or yourself)
- visit sick or elderly who can’t get out
Whatever the method, the result is the same. Acts of kindness made people feel good, both the givers and the receivers. Kindness results in people feeling appreciated, understood and loved. Kind acts cost little, but can have great benefits. How are you going to be kind today?
I regularly hear that my kids have good manners. People compliment me on how polite they are. Though I appreciate hearing good things about them, this always puzzles me. They are not doing anything special, they behave in a way that I would expect everyone to. They say please and thank you, hold the door for the next person (or open it for someone without a free hand) and wait their turn.
I have had store employees thank me for pausing a phone conversation to interact with them. (One even mentioned it had never happened before.) Why is this out of the ordinary? What has happened to our society? How did we become a society of individuals rather than a whole?
Every generation complains about the new one. Looking back, our parents and grandparents cited a lack of respect, a selfishness about the youth of the day. One can say that this is more of the same, but I am seeing it in older people as well. This lack of courtesy is not peculiar to teens and young adults. In fact, it is often worse in those who are old enough “to know better.”
Finger pointing and blaming is rampant. Someone else is to blame for everything. Few accept responsibility for their actions, least of all our authority figures and the media who report on them.
People react to bad news. They comment on stories they disagree with. Bad news, outrageous news, misleading news and headlines all create controversy and people make their opinions known. Think about this: When is the last time you commented on good news? When was the last time you told someone that they made a positive difference in your life? When did you last share a story celebrating someone else’s accomplishments? When did you last smile and exchange pleasantries with a stranger? When did you last comment on an act of kindness, acknowledging that you noticed and that it was appreciated?
We complain about the preponderance of bad news. Tragedy and scandal are the headlines. The positive stories get buried, if they run at all. Why? Because that is what we are asking for. We blame the media for creating controversy. These stories are successful only because people react to them. It is obvious that the way we are behaving is not working.
Let’s try something new. The next time something makes you feel good, tell someone about it. The next time you read something that makes you smile, that encourages you, share it. Tell people that their actions and words are making a difference. Look for the positive. Encourage kindness. We can’t escape all the evil and sadness in the world, but we don’t have to feed it.