View this post on Instagram
In 1982, Anne Herbert scrawled, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in a restaurant.
According to Wikipedia “A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by kind people to either help or cheer up a random stranger, for no reason other than to make people happier.”
Kindness, defined, is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Again, per Wikipedia, “Kindness is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition and concern and consideration for others. It is considered a virtue and is recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.”
Kindness should be more than random, it should be habitual. I try to be kind every day.
For the man I love, I try to always make sure his coffee is ready when he gets up and that he has something yummy to eat for breakfast. I don’t have to do this by any means, and I don’t know if he expects this, but it is something that brings me joy.
Spreading kindness brings joy. Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. This brings up the memory of the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” song by Stinky Wizzleteats on the “Ren and Stimpy Show.” Usually gross and occasionally politically incorrect, the show never failed to make me laugh. When feeling a bit blue, I’ve been known to dance around my house with my dogs repeating, “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” until my silly pups make me giggle with their dogginess.
There was a day last week when I was feeling less than joyful. I was tired and not looking forward to the tasks at work. As I rode the elevator on the way to my cube, a woman got on at the next parking level. I saw her walking toward the door wearing something rather unassuming—a brown, knee-length dress, I think. She stomped her feet as she walked toward the door. I then noticed her boots. They were adorable in dark red with brown laces that rose above her ankles, kind of like Doc Martens but not as heavy.
She got in the elevator, the doors closed, and I blurted out “I love your boots.”
Her face lit up as if she’d been given a puppy. “Aren’t they cute?” she responded, then went into where she got them and that they were great for those with sore feet who walk a lot. She smiled widely at me and said, “Thank you for noticing and commenting, you made my day. I was feeling a little blah and thought the boots might help perk me up, and they did, as did you.”
Random? Yes. Kindness? Yes. Joy for us both? Yes.
My job is a bit south of downtown Denver at a hospital known for serving the indigent population. There are many homeless people in Denver and around where I work. Occasionally, I will run out and grab a quick lunch to go and bring it back to my desk to work through my lunch. Usually, there are homeless people holding signs around our building and on the busy streets nearby. Signs that are sometimes funny, or merely asking for a bit of help.
I’ve made it my rule that when I go out to grab food, I offer a meal to a homeless person as well. I walk up, introduce myself, and ask them if they’d like to have lunch with me, or if I may bring them back something. At first, I didn’t expect many people to take me up on my invitation to dine together, but quite a few have. I have been blessed with some amazing stories of resilience, courage, love, sadness, and humanness. We have laughed, cried, and hugged.
These are just a couple of examples of how I find ways to be kind. This also makes me think of the movie “Pay It Forward” where the lead character, Trevor, encourages his classmates to do a good thing for three people, and they then each do a good thing for three other people, and so on. It’s a beautiful concept.
Could such a movement actually work? Trevor, despite the difficult situations he faces in the movie, finds ways to just be kind to others, but did Trevor love himself?
I began to wonder, is being kind to others something you need to instill in yourself first? Must we be kind to ourselves before we can be kind to others?
Rick Hanson wrote, “If you get a sense of other people and find compassion for them, you’ll feel better yourself. Flip it the other way, and it is also true: kindness to yourself is kindness to others. As your own well-being increases, you’re more able and likely to be patient, supportive, forgiving, and loving. As you grow happiness and other inner strengths inside yourself, you’ve got more to offer to others.”
As I read this, I took a moment and just felt my breath…slowly, in and out. Relief spilled over me—it felt good to love myself, and doing so was not selfish as I often thought.
I find myself often attacked by my inner critic, who was created from the things I’d heard as a young girl. “You need to stay in the lines when you color…those colors aren’t right,” or “Stop playing dumb.”
Hendrik Edberg wrote in his article, “Simple Self-Love”:
“Find the truth and exception when an inner critic or outer critic attacks. Your own inner critic may not always say nice things about you. People around you may attack you or try to bring you down to serve one of their own needs.
If you or someone else does this, ask yourself this question: What is the exception to this though?
This is very effective to change your train of thoughts, to find the truth and to not get down on yourself.”
Another suggestion he has is to write down three things you can appreciate about yourself each day. My three things, today, are: I make damn good soup, I like my hair, and my love for all animals. Just writing these down in this moment made me smile a little more.
Pema Chödrön says, “What you do for yourself, any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself, will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.”
I will strive to practice kindness more than randomly, each moment, first to myself, and then to others.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ~ Henry James