(image from Pixabay)
And so January has kicked off and this is my month of Kindness in my 2017 Character Challenge. For starters I have been very kind to myself - I came up with this challenge only days before the start of 2017 and so I am still playing catch-up on the boundaries and structures of what I am aiming to do - and so I am not being too hard on myself if I have moments of slight panic. But I am getting there with my aims and to-do's and I have decided that I am going to leave the challenge a little organic (or a lot), and just go with the flow. It is an opportunity for me to learn about character and virtue in-depth, as well as learn a little more about other's and myself. I haven't just been kind to myself though, I have been thinking about kindness every day and trying to insert little conscious moments when I can. In doing this I am already learning that you actually need to be quite a mindful person if you want to inject more kindness in your life. Being more aware of what people say (both verbally and with their body language), and responding to that in the best way, is how I've tried to show kindness to others. (This raises the question of overthinking stuff - and a few times I have asked myself if I have stifled myself in the act of kindness .... maybe another blog post there).
But right here right now I want to go a little Kindness 101, to explore, a little briefly, about the concept of kindness and what it means to different people, different cultures. I believe that in mining the different ideas and concepts of kindness I can perhaps discover hidden treasures of action, new ways of being kind, doing kind, and taking kindness, and also open up the discussion of what kindness means to you.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary Kindness means: 1. a kind deed, 2. the quality or state of being kind
(which now means I am going to look up the meaning of kind -
Merriam-Webster dictionary meaning of kind (adjective): 1. chiefly dialect: affectionate, loving, 2. a: of a sympathetic or helpful nature, b: of a forebearing nature: gentle, c: arising from or characterised by sympathy or forebearance <a kind act>, 3. of a kind to give pleasure or relief.)
So based on these definitions kindness can be boiled down to an act or deed that extends from a loving or sympathetic feeling. The desire to show one's love and affection, the need to help a person from a sympathetic standpoint, the opportunity to bring joy to another person, what do you think?
My intuition is that kindness is making someone, anyone, feel good, feel accepted, feel loved, feel wanted, feel appreciate, and most importantly, feel human (to be acknowledged as a fellow person on this journey called life).
On thinkkindness.org blog they have written a post about the way that kindness is expressed in different cultures, from the tea ceremonies in Japan, to giving of a silver cup in Israel. The blog also states what is probably a pretty obvious point - the similarities between cultures when showing kindness outway the differences. When I think about my own experiences in different cultures I find that similarities of kindess are more prevelant ..... and most of the time it revolves around food!
In my travels I have also noticed that a kindness given is usually rewarded with a kindness back (not that you should be kind to get something in return, you should be kind because it is nice for the recipient and you). When I was in Dallas, Texas, last year for the IPEN Festival my colleague and I experience a multitude of different types of kindness - there was the taxi driver who was determined to help us find our luggage, there was a rockstar academic luminary who took 10 minutes out of his very busy schedule to offer us some encouragement and guidance, there was the waitress who gave us free pie as we loved the cafe so much we had been there multiple times for breakfast. These types of generosity and kindness are worldwide, how has someone shown you kindness?
For the past few days, as I mentioned above, I have been trying to be kind to myself, but kindness in a truly kind way. So no slothing or laziness, but definitely mindful resting, meditation, eating healthy, bringing yoga back into my day, drinking loads of water, and also having an occassional chocolate, cause eating chocolate is good for the soul. Being kind to oneself isn't letting yourself off the hook with life, it is actually the opposite! Self kindness is making sure your body is healthy and getting all the nutrients it needs, it means talking to yourself positively, doing things that will ease stress and not add to it. What have you done lately to show yourself some kindness?
Also over the past few days I have been very very mindful of how I can show kindness to not only family and friends, but also strangers. I have had a smile and a thank you for all of the people who have served me in shops and cafes - you never know what a smile can do for someone, a very simple and easy act of kindness. I was in a shop with my cousin and she commented that she liked one of the cards that was in a basket on the counter. My cousin had been insanely generous and kind to me the New Years weekend, and so the least I could do was show my thanks .... without her knowing, I bought the card and wrote her a thank you note for the time spent with her and her son. Back with dad, tonight I am cooking dinner as he has had a very busy day, it's the least I could do really. This is just a few of the small ways I have tried to show kindness since the beginning of January.
Over the next month I am going to go more in-depth, explore grand acts of kindness as well as smaller, quiter, simpler ones, find inspiring stories, facts, and voices. Do you have a story of kindness you would like to share? Let me know.
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright