It is one of the most important things in my life. It makes me happy when given or received, at any point that it passes between two beings. It is the simple acknowledgement that other people are here, on this planet, sharing this space with me, and that I wish them well. I seek kindness out, and it finds me continuously. Kindness is uncomplicated. Kindness can be a habit, so I am building it that way for my kids in their lives. I want for them to have it too.
Sometimes when I take a simple trip to the grocery store I come home lit up. The other day I had a conversation with the person who was checking me out. We started talking about gluten intolerance and the problems that she was having. I am pretty sure that I helped her out a lot. It makes me really happy. I remember each person that I encounter…even the person who smiles and waves when I stop for them at the crosswalk. These simple encounters, when noticed are powerful.
The most powerful thing about them is that my children notice each and every one of them. I’ve said it before, and if you are a parent it should be your mantra. Kids typically attempt to tune you out when you are talking to them, but they notice every single, teeny tiny, minute portion of your behavior. I constantly show them the kindness that I direct toward other humans and in turn I see them behaving the same way.
Kids who aren’t kind are not, absolutely not, unkind because it is something that is not in them. They are unkind because it is what they are repeatedly witnessing. It is in part the awareness of all of the people surrounding us. Some people are so self-absorbed that they can be surrounded by people, but not even see any of them. If a parent does this repeatedly in front of their children the children will model the behavior. The attitude says: “I don’t care about you. You are not significant in my reality. You may as well not even exist.”
How cruel must we be to behave this way? I am sure that it is the reason that I have always disliked large cities, even though I love the culture that can be found within them, often the people are cold. It really bothers me. Imagine what a better place the world would be if we all started caring about each other just a little bit more? What if people started making it their mission to have a positive interaction with each and every person that they meet in their day?
I know that for some people this is probably nauseatingly optimistic. I get it. I know that we all get stressed and worried in our lives and the last thing that we want to do is try to reach out to others. The thing is though, especially when I am having a really crappy day, when I reach out, when I get that smile back from another person, it makes me feel better. Sort of like the song says, right? Just Smile.
I have watched my children pick up money that strangers have dropped and chase them down to give it back to them. My son, who is often absent-minded and will frequently get in other people’s way when we are out in public, always apologizes. I usually have to make him aware of what he did, but once I do, he always says that he is sorry, and usually it comes along with a “Sir” or a “Ma’am”. My youngest daughter is knocking herself out trying to collect money for charity right now. Yesterday she sold her dollhouse to collect money for Camp Sunshine.
It gives me immense joy to know that my kids are kind kids. Not just because I can be proud of their interactions with strangers, but also because I know that it is going to bring them happiness in their lives. They aren’t perfect by any means. They still have their sibling angst. They argue and behave poorly towards each other. They do eventually apologize and make up though. They care; they have empathy for other human beings. Remind yourself to be kind, especially when your kids are watching. Notice others and be good to them. Your children will follow suit and their generation will be far greater than our own.