“Mommy, I said thank you!” My son’s sparkly, 3-year-old baby blue eyes beamed up at me with pride. My smile in return reflected the same feelings.
Words so simple, yet so powerful. A woman had held the door open for us, and my son had said ‘thank you.’ Willingly and unprompted. This was one of those moments in life that you want to write down and fold up on a piece of paper, tucked away in your heart forever. My son was kind. I couldn’t be more proud.
Ever since Day 1, scratch that, ever since before my son was even an idea in my head, I had worried. A little background for you; I am a worrier. I worry about everything. So I would say that this concern was no different from the rest, except that it was. Kindness (or the lack of) is something that touches me deep down into my soul. Unfortunately, we have probably all been on the receiving end of some not so kind words or behavior in our lives. So the idea of someone ever being less than kind to my unthought of, unconceived, unborn child was almost more than I could bear. And as it turns out, I’m not alone.
Speaking with many parents, it seems that we all share the same concerns for our children: that they will not be treated kindly. By teachers, classmates, the stranger on the street; whomever it may be. In today’s day and age, it seems that everyday manners and any concept of how people should treat others has simply gone out the window. You hear stories all the time. Cyber bullying. Kids growing up too fast. Excluding kids just for the ‘fun’ of it. It makes me sick. Like, physically ill. The idea of anyone treating my son this way is enough to send me and him into a bubble for the rest of our lives. But I’m a realist.
How can we combat the epidemic of mistreating others? Kindness. Pure and simple kindness. Spread kindness and it will catch like wild fire. And it starts with us, and it starts at home. And I’m not just talking about kids here, either.
How many times have you walked into work and overhead your co-workers gossiping? How many unnecessary family feuds have taken place in your inner circle? How many strangers have you passed by on the street who give you an inexplicable, nasty look, not held the door open for you, cut you off in traffic, etc??? The list goes on. And on. And on…
Kindness is slowly going extinct. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that everyone who I have talked to seems to share my concerns. There is hope for us, yet! Here’s my thought: if we all share these same concerns, it tells me that it is time for a culture shift. Time for a new generation and a new way of life. And it starts with us.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
My 3 year old didn’t just wake up one day and think to himself “wow, I should probably thank people when they hold the door open for me.” Similarly, I never ‘taught’ him to say thank you on these occurrences. He simply observed me doing it enough on my own that it sunk in. Kids are like sponges, they soak up everything they see and hear and then follow suit. And guess what??? As adults we are no different. Kindness is contagious, much like any other trend out there on social media. If you practice it enough, it is sure to catch on!
If this kind of ‘kindness’ is not second nature to you, then simply make a conscious effort. The more you practice kindness, the more you will catch on to it, too!
BE THE CHANGE
Similarly to leading by example is to be the change that you want to see in the world. I’m sure you have heard this expression many times, but I really want the words to sink in. If you want to see a change, then you need to be the one to initiate it. We cannot expect strangers on the street to behave one way if we do not do it ourselves.
I challenge you. Start with someone you view as ‘unkind.’ Maybe it is someone you know, or maybe it is simply a stranger you bump into on the street who seems less than friendly. Typical knee-jerk reaction: be rude, unfriendly, or unkind right back. Here’s the challenge: BE THE CHANGE. Instead of reciprocating the behavior, be the bigger person. Hold the door for the person who slammed it in your face. Call the person who has been bad mouthing you and lend an olive branch. These people may be shocked by your unexpected reaction, but may learn to catch on to your kindness!
REVIVE EVERYDAY MANNERS
Say please. Say thank you. Hold doors open. Common courtesy, people. Learn it, love it, share it. I don’t know where my manners came from, but I am proud to say that I have always been big on manners. Not necessarily because I’m ‘supposed’ to, but because it is literally second nature to me.
If I can’t hear someone, rather than responding with a rude “WHAT?!?” I always follow up with ‘pardon me?’ If someone sneezes within earshot, they always get a ‘God bless you.’ EVERYONE gets thank you’s; friends, family, the cashier at the grocery store, even the dreaded doctor. You get the idea. Everyday manners; such a simple concept, yet so under-used. Let’s bring them back, people! Thank you!!!
NEVER. EVER. JUDGE
We’ve all heard it. Only God Can Judge. Oh how true these words ring. However, it hits even the best of us, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty, myself. It’s human nature. We have become SUCH a judgmental society. I read an article today that apparently the nation is in an uproar over the First Lady’s shoes. Now, forgive me, but I don’t care what end of the political spectrum you are on, there is never a need to judge someone’s shoes. Seriously people??? Is this what we’ve come to???
But in all seriousness, judging others is never cool. I know that it is easy to get sucked in. But our thoughts and our words hurt. Think how you would feel if others were judging you (assuming in a negative light) Now think back to times that you have judged others. If the shoe were on the other foot, how would you feel?
Let’s put an end to it now. Commit to not judging others; fairly or unfairly. It is not up to us to determine how others should live. Keep an open mind and a kind heart.
STOP WITH THE GOSSIP, ALREADY!
Gossip dates back to pre-historic times, I’m sure of it. And it will probably always be an inevitable part of life. Especially in today’s day and age of social media. (DISCLAIMER: if you willingly put something out there for the world to see, consider it ‘fair game’)
However, I’m referring to the mean-spirited, down-right nasty, rumor-filled gossip that tears people down. It’s one thing to spread truth. Like I said, ‘gossip’ is probably never going out of style. However, there is a vast difference when the truth is transformed into ugly, hurtful lies. Think of it like the telephone game. The original message gets so distorted that by the end, no one even knows where the original ‘source’ came from.
We need to put an end to it. NOW. And like everything else, it starts with us.
KINDNESS STARTS NOW
I know that it can be hard to embrace kindness when everyone around us is surrounded with chaos. Be the bigger person and know that change is possible. Do it for yourself. Do it for others. Do it for future generations.
How do you embrace kindness on a daily basis? What can you do today to make a difference for tomorrow???