I’ve witnessed so many random acts of kindness these past few months. The juxtaposition of these touching moments with the backdrop of a world which sometimes feels cold, confusing, or frightening, is striking to me. Let us contemplate and celebrate this outpouring of genuine compassion by diving deeper into this way of being.
Let’s raise a toast to the unexpected joys that simple acts of compassion offer us and the world. Stop for one sweet minute and just breathe in the pleasurable memory of a recent act of kindness someone showered onto you. Can you feel that delicious energy bathe your soul? Kindness matters because it touches our heart in unique ways. It’s a fundamental human value, one that deserves to be ever-cultivated.
Many of our interactions have kindness at the core. The examples are endless — holding an elevator door, complimenting a stranger, running errands for an elderly neighbor, baking treats for the office, leaving a surprise note on a friend’s car, buying the person in line behind you coffee, letting someone into your lane, etc.
These simple gestures can have a profound impact on us, and are especially good for countering feelings of isolation, cruelty, hatred, or evil. Selflessness mirrors our humanity back to us. It echos our longing to be cared for with respect and consideration. Shared compassion enriches our lives, giving greater meaning to it. How we treat each other impacts our sense of human dignity. So why not, whenever possible, be truly, deeply, unapologetically kind?
The famous spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “The next Buddha may take the form of a community; a community practicing understanding and loving kindness. …This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth.” Loving kindness refers to that act of offering tenderness and consideration toward others. It’s an ability to bring joy and happiness to another by being there with someone in a caring, empathetic way. Many consider the offering of loving kindness a key element in the fostering of deep love and long-lasting relationships.
Showing compassion to each other indeed creates a better community and a better world. It happens one small gesture at a time. For connections to feel truly meaningful and safe, sympathy has to be an essential ingredient. It’s there in the tone you use when communicating, the hugs you offer when showing care, the smile you shine when you greet someone. Kindness sets the stage for trusting one another in a grand way.
Being friendly, generous, or considerate generates a spirit of good will. These qualities, when we show them to another, have the double benefit of expanding our own sense of personal pleasure and upliftment. The energy of giving — of magnanimity — creates a wellspring of cellular juices that fuel us for more whole and expansive states of being. Who doesn’t, for instance, feel more vibrant and alive after offering a moment of kindness to someone?
When you embody an attitude of care and altruism, this fundamental value opens gateways to other positive traits — honesty, forgiveness, patience, and generosity, to name a few. Such admirable character strengths grow and radiate exponentially through an intentional gesture of warm-heartedness. Fostering this thoughtfulness is essential to the wellbeing of all. Big doses of care and attention matter in a big way, for kindness has the power to transform.
Receiving the gift of a kind, compassionate moment — be it a gesture, word, or loving conversation — can melt your heart, improve your psychological and physiological health, and leave you feeling the grace and power of a warm connection.
Simple hospitality soothes us; it helps us feel understood and empathized with. Receiving a moment of compassion sparks little flickers of unexpected joy inside us. How we roll through life is effected, in substantial ways, by the warm treatment we receive. Kindness nurtures us, infusing our being with the soul food we need to weather and combat the world’s harsher elements — hostility, animosity, indifference, cruelty, and all the other ill wills that lurk around many corners.
Interestingly, the experiences of receiving kindness that my coaching clients reference most frequently are those in which someone has bestowed upon them words that temper feelings of doubt or shame. It’s at these times, when a person is struggling against self-loathing, that another’s caring reassurance can set them straight and help them soften. In other words, acts of loving kindness helps quiet another’s negative self-talk.
Perhaps you’ve noticed, as have I, that random good deeds seem to rise during times of collective grief. These gestures serve to buffer souls and spirits. Grief and heartbreak, something we’ve all recently experienced under the weight of the coronavirus and ongoing social-racial injustice, can be sometimes touchingly mitigated when compassion intervenes. Amazingly, a compassionate offering — just one small, selfless act — has the power to make someone’s day, to soothe someone’s angst and heartache.
Kindness as a genuine way of being can revolutionize our life as well as the lives of others. Being kind creates a force that has the power to transform us. It’s an attitude that brings goodness and happiness into our connections. Noble, empathetic humans seem to have discovered the secret to an amazing, thriving, fulfilling, and joyful life. They grace others with acts of kindness — surely a win-win that deserves to be celebrated!
This article was also published in Ann Arbor’s The Brick Magazine.