The Many Faces of Kindness
By Kater Leatherman
Evidently it’s cool to be kind. This is good news given the self-possessed, self-focused, selfie era that we currently live in. Kindness really is a virtue and, with life being a challenging adventure at times, how can we be anything but?
By definition, kindness means concern for others without wanting anything in return. Wikipedia digs a little deeper and defines kindness as an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. However you choose to define it, kindness not only benefits others, but you as well. Why? Because when you are kind, it releases neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of contentment and relaxation.
One of the many facets of kindness is forgiveness. Forgiving can lead to other things, like understanding and compassion for the one who hurt you. But if someone has forgiven you for something that you are hard-pressed to forgive yourself for, then consider it a supreme act of kindness.
Of course, there are acts of kindness that leave an indelible print on the mind. What if you were invited to a birthday party for someone you love? After the food is consumed, the birthday song sung and the cake cut, the birthday person proceeds to go around the table and, one by one, share what she most appreciates about each person and how much they mean to her. You might say that this gesture was thoughtful, but you have to be thoughtful to be kind. Either way, having attended this event where this happened, I can tell you it was well remembered.
Another form of kindness includes good manners, whether you practice them in public, while in traffic or at home. What’s kind about having manners is that they make life easier for others, and making life easier for others requires sensitivity. Emily Post believes that manners are just that, a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
“If you have that awareness,” she adds, “you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
How about a kind word when someone has lost a loved one? After my brother died, people sent wonderful cards with heartfelt sentiments and acknowledged their condolences face to face. But one person stood out in the crowd.
She wanted to know about my brother, his life and what he loved to do. It turned out that being able to sit down and talk about him with her was very healing. There is kindness in just being there for someone and she knew just what to do.
Sometimes the most extraordinary kindnesses are unexpected. Have you ever received a birthday card from someone with a sentiment that offered a few hours of grateful friendship, celebration and fun? Did you ever send your parents flowers on your birthday? Remember how it felt to receive a card for no other reason than someone was thinking of you? Years ago, when my father gave me a ceiling fan as a housewarming gift, he included the services to have an electrician install it. Very cool.
Let’s not forget that kindness includes restraint. Avoid the need to correct someone in front of others. Practice patience with the young and elderly. Hold your tongue when you’re angry. Give up the need to be right all the time. The tricky thing about life is that it’s harder to be kind when you don’t want to be. Yet, this is the true test of your openheartedness.
There’s a restaurant in Oakland, California, whose mission it is to be the best part of each customer’s day. They aim to please in order to make you happy. They want you to leave feeling fulfilled in heart, body and spirit. There is an element of kindness in wanting to enhance the quality of someone’s day.
Some believe that you have never really lived until you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you. What random act of kindness can you offer today? Let someone have the better parking space. Do something that will make someone’s life easier, even for a moment. Everything counts — an unsolicited smile, a few words of encouragement or an unexpected gesture — can reshape a person’s day, maybe even their life. When you are kind to others, you are also choosing to make the world a better place.
Kater is a professional organizer and home stager, yoga teacher and self-published author who inspires others to live better. Visit her website at www.katerleatherman.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org