Kindness is one of those old-fashioned words we don’t hear (or think) much about these days.
When I was a child, way back in the middle of the 20th century, there was a TV personality named Garry Moore who always ended his program with an admonition to be kind to one another.
From my 21st century vantage point, such an admonition seems downright quaint.
In today's frightened, angry, worried, full of strife, self absorbed world, we’re busy trying to get the most for our dollar, to find a job or a romance, to keep from going stress-crazy…but being kind to one another? That thought rarely enters our busy, chaotic, electronically connected to everyone and everything life.
And yet…there is probably nothing that has more impact than kindness.
As Mark Twain once said, "Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
When I think of kind people, I think of the Dali Lama. His is a busy, public life. Far busier and more stressful than mine could ever be, and yet he never seems too busy to be courteous. His advice: "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
Another word for kindness.
Angels Camp, California, the little left-over Gold Rush town near which I live, was declared a Kindness Zone by the city fathers back in the 1980s. And every February, the schools in town focus on kindness. People hand out blue-ribbons for kind acts. And blue ribbons are tied around posts and trees throughout the town to remind us all to be kind.
The City Council devotes one meeting during February to essays school children have written about their "kindness heroes." Each essay is read into a microphone by the child who wrote it, while the kindness hero stands nearby, and community members listen attentively (and applaud at the end of the essay).
Some of those essays are enough to melt your heart.
This year's children wrote about relatives who took them in and gave them a home. One fourth grader wrote that her grandmother was her kindness hero because, "She took me out of motels, hotels and crowded shelters and gave me a home. She is loving and will never stop being my kindness hero."
A seventh-grade boy wrote that his parents were addicted to drugs. "We moved from shelter to shelter," he wrote. But then his grandparents took him in. They not only took him in, they actually adopted him. "They never stop loving me and taking care of me," this child wrote.
Children wrote about neighbors who helped when the family car broke down. Neighbors who filled the kitchen cupboards when they were bare.
Listening to these eloquent children describe their experiences and how they recognized the reality of love through the acts of kindness they received, reminded me of the power we all have to change lives. The power of kindness.
One of my heroes, Leo Buscaglia, focused on love and the power of love. Kindness is, of course, love in action. And the action can be as small as a sincere smile. Leo once said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of shich have the potential to turn a life around."
I'm so proud to live in a community that emphasizes kindness.
And if you've ever wanted to change the world for the better, let me encourage you. It is possible. And it's not as hard as you might think. Just be kind to one another.
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