Before my dad died, I was standing next to him at my oldest brother’s birthday party when a guy walked up and said, “Hey Mr. C! I wanted to thank you for letting me live in your basement that summer. I’ve always meant to thank you for that.”
My dad looked confused. First, he had no idea who the guy was and second, he had no idea anyone besides his own kids ever lived in his house. After they chatted a bit, my dad looked at me, smiled and said, “Your mother! From stray animals to people, she helped everyone out.”
He was right. My mom hated to see anyone suffer. She extended kindness wherever she went. I think it’s because she had the ability to imagine a life less fortunate than her own and the desire to do whatever she could to help others.
After living with a raging pandemic for almost a year, we could use more people like my mom. Is it just me or have we all become a little less patient, a lot less tolerant and yeah, even a bit more unkind? It may feel as if we have a good excuse to drop the niceties, but does that give us the right to yell at a cashier, write “f%*k off” to the online customer service rep… um…yes, that happens… or just make someone else feel horrible?
This pandemic may have killed our ability to be nice but we should never lose the ability to be kind and yes, there is a difference between the two.
As Meghan Moravcik Walbert explored on Lifehacker, kindness is different from being nice. “Think of kindness as the act that accompanies (or replaces) your words. It’s silently helping a struggling mom of three kids unload her groceries into her trunk, rather than smiling and saying, ‘You’re doing a great job, mama,’ as you breeze past. It’s bringing a pot of soup to your sick friend, rather than sighing sympathetically and saying you hope they feel better soon. You’re kind if you shovel your neighbor’s car out from under a pile of snow, stop to help a stranger change a tire, or pause to give an obviously lost person some directions—even if you’re not the type of person to bother saying ‘Bless you,’ when someone else sneezes.”
My mom knew the difference between nice and kind and I thought of her today as I walked out of the drugstore. No matter the weather, the same homeless man stands by the door. Normally I’d give him money but today the temperature barely hovered above ten and I wondered what I could do to help him more than usual. Putting him in my car to warm up didn’t seem smart seeing we’re dealing with a pandemic, so I asked him if I could get him something like a blanket or anything else to help him out. He was humbled and said “anything you think could work would be appreciated,” so I went back inside and did a little shopping.
I bought him a bag of cotton tube socks, a scarf, mittens, a battery operated hand warmer and a supply of batteries to keep it working. Today I had no cash so I bought him a gift card he could use at a local restaurant to get a warm meal. It wasn’t much but his face lit up when I handed it all to him. He was grateful beyond measure and I hoped in some small way, I made a difference in his day.
Practicing random acts of kindness is more important than ever, especially those done without a motive.
All I had to do was imagine how it would feel if I were left with no other options but to stand outside a store in the freezing cold hoping someone would give me money.
Having basic shelter is something we all take for granted and unfortunately, I’m seeing more and more people out on the streets looking for help just like him. So giving this man a tiny bit of warmth felt like the least I could do.
The thing is, once you practice acts of kindness, it starts to become second nature.
We all inherited some of my mother’s ability to empathize with others, but my sister has to be one of the kindest people I know. Just like my mom when she sees someone in need she jumps into action. In the past, she’s purchased and collected new coats for a homeless shelter and years ago when she heard from a school counselor about a young girl who was being neglected, she bought her clothing and shoes and silently dropped them off at the school for her. She’s even helped ME when business was rocky, knowing her purchases saved us when we really needed the sales. She’s humble, and quiet, never wanting to be recognized even though her actions have made big differences in so many people’s lives.
My sister is incredibly generous, but random acts of kindness don’t have to be expensive or performed only for those in dire straights.
Look and you’ll see kindness all around you. Like my neighbor using his snow blower to clear the entire block after a major snowfall or another driver letting you thru the stop even though it wasn’t your turn. The important thing is, don’t let those go to waste. Return the act by shoveling the walk for someone else or letting a stranger cut in front of you in line. There are a million ways to be kind and so many ways to do kind things.
We are living in a country more divided than ever and I believe random acts of kindness are what we need to unite us. Being empathetic to others and focusing on doing something to help someone else removes judgment and helps to resolve the differences between us. Empathy gives us insight so we can see how others experience the world and what better way to heal a divided nation than to perform random acts of kindness?
I know I sound naive and I know how difficult it is to be empathetic to someone you don’t agree with, but if we don’t start showing kindness to others, we will never get past the ugliness we’ve been thru this year.
Quoting Walbert again, “You may not want to exchange pleasantries with that neighbor who finally took the ridiculous political banner down; but if the wind blows their garbage cans down the street, it would be kind to drag them back over.”
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from isolating ourselves it’s that we need each other, but if you really can’t be kind for the sake of someone else, then do it for yourself. The Mayo Clinic has proven that performing acts of kindness actually sends a rush of feel-good chemicals to our brain. “Physiologically, kindness can positively change your brain. Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being, and cause the pleasure/reward centers in your brain to light up.”
Not only that, acting kind towards others decreases our blood pressure and lowers Cortisol levels which in turn lowers our stress. Best of all, it’s contagious. Just like COVID-19 sweeping across our world, acting kind towards others creates a domino effect. One person receives a kind act and chances are, they will do something nice for someone else, and so on and so on.
So let’s make this the year of Kindness 21 because kindness is the antidote that will heal us, it is something we can use right now and we need it more than ever.
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
Let ME know:
How are you practicing empathy & kindness during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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