Being kind is taking a stand. By itself, it might not help: maybe our kindness will be ineffective. The money we sent to alleviate hunger might be unwisely used. Helping an old lady cross the road does not eliminate poverty in a faraway country. And for every plastic bottle we pick up on the beach, another ten will be tossed down tomorrow.
Never mind. We have affirmed a principle, a way of being.
Microcosm is macrocosm: Each person is the whole world.
As many mystics and visionaries have pointed out, each individual, in some subtle and mysterious way, embodies all people.
If we can bring some relief and well-being to just one person’s life, this is already a victory, a silent, humble response to the suffering and pain of the planet.
This is the starting point.
Today’s Kindness Friday comes directly from the book, The Power of Kindness – The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, by Piero Ferrucci.
We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132
I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.
Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.
We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.
I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?
Part of what I’ve learned in my sixty-plus years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.
- Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
- A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
- Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
- Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.
All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.
Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:
The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.
Are you overwhelmed to the point that you say to yourself, What could I possibly do to make a difference?
The answer is:
You can make a difference because kindness trumps all.
I recently wrote Ellen Degeneres to thank her for her ongoing efforts to spread kindness. Sure, at the end of each of her daily shows she says, Be kind to one another, but she puts force behind those words in what she does for others. At the conclusion of my letter to her, I said the following:
We’re not charged with changing the entire world, but we can have an impact on the miniscule portion of the world to which we have access. You’re doing it, and I will continue to do what I can from my corner of the world. If everyone makes a fraction of a difference right from where they are, those fractions will add up to great things.
I’m glad I’m on the same kindness train as you, Ellen, and I’ll keep chugging along until I can’t chug any longer.
I sincerely believe that random acts or words of kindness can make a difference in the world in which we live. There are so many negative and hurtful words being thrust into our universe, can’t we just please try to balance out that hurt with words of encouragement, recognition, and nourishment?
Yes, nourishment. In all our daily interactions – be they via social media or in person – we can nurture the hurt that exists all around us. Our words, our smile, our actions may just change the life of someone forever. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that type of transformative nourishment? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it fill the emptiness within you that hungered and thirsted for confirmation that you matter, that you aren’t a failure, that you have potential?
Let’s revisit how that felt and commit to quenching the thirst of each person with whom we come in contact.
There’s a new social media trend going on right now initiated by Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, and Revlon. You can see their mini-video by visiting Ellen’s website. The trend is being expressed by these phrases:
With all the discord among the citizens of the United States due in part to a lack of discourse between groups who have purposefully alienated themselves from each other, perhaps love is the one quality with which we can clothe ourselves to be more open and accepting of each other.
We don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions or leanings, but can’t we at least respect each other enough to listen?
Can’t we just listen without bringing our own preconceived perceptions and prejudices to the forefront?
Please, don’t turn off others’ voices.
My local newspaper, the Seattle Times, has a daily mini-column titled, Rant and Rave. I always read that column, but I’m most interested in the Raves because acts of kindness are spotlighted. As you can see in the attached link, one portion of the column is affirming, the other, not so much.
I wrote to the editor of that particular section, asking him to put more focus on the Raves, maybe even excluding the Rants from time to time, because the general public has so many social media venues in which to complain. I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I am hopeful that I eventually will.
I sincerely believe we all have a responsibility to counter balance the negativity that surrounds us, and distributing kindnesses to others is one very easy way of doing so. The yucky things that go on in the world get all the attention; the spotlight shines brightly on those things; the good that occurs barely receives the dying flame from a match.
What can you do to make the world a better place?
Be kind to one another, all day, every day.
What happened to the country into which I was born?
What happened to freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech?
Allow me to go back in history for a brief moment: March 1991 saw astonishing violence exhibited toward an African American, Rodney King, resultant from Mr. King’s decision not to pull over during a high-speed chase when pursued by Los Angeles Police Department officers. Officers were tried in a court of law for their excessive use of violence and three of those officers were acquitted, sparking the historical 1992 Los Angeles riots. Mr. King observed said violence and was upset at what transpired during those riots. What follows is a portion of his response to the ensuing actions and his plea for peace:
“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? … It’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”
There is so much division in our country, division that has polarized families, friends, and neighbors and brought about a renewed and jarring brand of hatred and intolerance. This hatred thrives in both conservative, moderate, and liberal circles. We are all guilty. We are all intolerant.
This growth of intolerance toward those who have an opinion different from our own has got to stop. Even if I am diametrically opposed to the opinions of others, the core of who I am must allow for at least an openness to hear from those whose core speaks differently. Listening doesn’t mean converting; it means allowing others the freedom to believe what they believe but only as long as such beliefs don’t promote actions or words that denigrate and ostracize all of us who are struggling to survive in the very limited time we have on this Earth.
There will never come a time when all individuals on this earth are in 100% agreement, but the need for discourse is emergent.
We all have opinions that lean one way or another, but strong leanings should be just that: a leaning that still allows for flexibility so that jointly we can work toward the betterment – rather than the tearing down – of our fellow man.
“I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”
Rejecting hatred and intolerance in all forms begins with you, and it begins with me … every day, for the rest of our lives.
We read a news story that pisses us off either because the story being reported gets our blood boiling or the person about whom that story is written – whether a politician, entertainer, or some other public figure – is someone we’re not exactly enamored with, then we feed and nurture the news story by spreading it on our personal social media accounts. Isn’t doing so drawing attention to someone we don’t like? Giving that someone the attention we deem they should not receive? If we’re perturbed about a public figure, isn’t it more appropriate to just avoid any mention of her or him? We have far more power than we think we do in these matters.
We’re all guilty of this behavior. What is it in us human beings that we read bad news and can’t wait to spread it so that others can get as upset as we were when we were exposed to it?
Isn’t it a better option that collectively, the world decides once and for all, “Not gonna do it. Not gonna go there. I’m gonna kill the story by not feeding it. I’m not gonna ruin someone else’s day, someone who was probably doing just fine up until they read my ill-thought out Facebook Share or Retweet. No, it’s time for an about-face.
As I’ve said several times before, I don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone’s day, or for making them angry or upset. That’s a responsibility I’m not going to place upon my shoulders. Instead, I’m gonna build up, not tear down.