Monday, March 1, 2010

Kindness

Kindness is in the air these days! One of the blogs on my favorites list (over there on the right) has a post about kindness and good deeds gone... astray. I read Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet not too long ago. My incredible women's group focused on kindness at our last meeting. The group's organizers recently saw the Dalai Lama speak and had that to share with us then we all shared our own Random Acts of Kindness committed over the past month. (It was our group homework.) There was even an act of Senseless Beauty; one of the women spent hours fixing up her neighbor's garden. The kind acts ranged from large to small but they were all meaningful and they all made a difference to someone's day and life. It's amazing how little effort we can expend for such a huge payoff. I can't think of anything else, actually, that has such a huge reward as an act of kindness. Even the anonymous acts- WE know if we are the ones who acted.

So what are kind acts, anyway? The book The Kind Diet would say that switching to a vegan diet is kind. I switched to a vegetarian diet (I’m not quite ready for that last step to vegan yet) partially out of a desire to be kind. I am trying to be kind to the planet by not using up more than my fair share of food resources because I truly believe that eating meat on a regular basis is taking food out of the mouths of the poor in third world countries. (The crops grown to feed cattle could be used much more efficiently to feed people.) Letting the guy behind me with just a few items go ahead of me in the grocery check out is a kindness. Volunteering is kindness. Kindness ranges from trying to live a kind lifestyle to the little spur of the moment things we do for others. Kindness, to me, goes along with compassion and caring for the other people living on the planet with us.

I am rewarded when I am kind; it makes me feel good. Conversely, when I behave like a jerk I feel badly. (And I can think of some instances…) I am embarrassed to remember times when I’ve let my temper get the best of me. I am chagrined when I remember times when thoughtlessness has caused inconvenience to others when it didn’t have to be that way. Or when I could have done something nice for someone but missed the opportunity because I didn’t think about it, like not sending a card for someone’s birthday. (I’m terrible about that; I lose track of the days.) It’s not intentionally unkind but the missed chance for active kindness and thoughtfulness that bothers me in those cases.

There’s also kindness in paying attention to others and not jumping to conclusions about who they are, something I’m learning as I get older. For instance, there have been people in my life that I felt, for one reason or another, didn’t like me and so responded to them… I don’t know, aloofly? Snobbishly? I even have a recent example. There was a woman I met a couple of years ago and I just knew she didn’t like me and there was no way we could ever get along or be friends. I’ve had some chances to spend more time with her lately through some activities we were both participating in and I realized she was actually pretty friendly towards me. There was even one time when we were standing around waiting for something and she came over and threw her arm around my shoulders. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I was so wrong about her; she did like me! I was so careful to behave nicely, kindly, every time I interacted with her, even though I felt she didn’t like me, and I was rewarded with finding out how wrong I was. (And I was happy to be wrong in this case, especially since I think she’s a pretty cool person.) It’s kindness that comes from a generosity of spirit. I have to remind myself to be generous of spirit and not judgmental, which is a bad habit and character flaw I am trying really hard to overcome.

All of these lessons learned, all tying back to kindness. This is a good subject to ponder.

4 comments:

Mark said...

I like what Roger Ebert has to say about kindness here:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/05/go_gently_into_that_good_night.html

If you're not already reading his blog, I'd recommend it...

Robin said...

That best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
by William Wordsworth

I hope you have a most beautiful day

M Hastings said...

I love how you point our that acting kindly is its own reward, and how unkindness just leaves you feeling skeezy. That's a really great motivation in itself!

Kim said...

Thank you for the comments!

Mark: I didn't know about Roger Ebert's blog; I like it so far. I'll definitely go back to it.

Robin: That is a lovely quote; thank you for sharing it. (And I hope I wasn't too terribly negative on your blog...)

M: It is motivating; I wonder how people who are intentionally mean can live with themselves.