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“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.” ~The 14th Dalai Lama

 I love this quote as it always reminds me that kindness is always accessible to us—even when, especially when—benevolence may not be front and center in our hearts and minds.

As the Pandemic continues, my emotions are raw, and my sleep is disturbed due to our countries continuing civil unrest around racism and police brutality and the dueling political campaigns.  Right now, it feels that frustration, anger and agitation are more accessible than benevolence and equanimity.

The other truth is—2020 is a year of unprecedented challenges AND if we’re open to it…new opportunities.  So, I’m consciously focusing on finding ways to take the 2020 challenges and open the door to the opportunities.

This takes work.

One of the simplest ways to bring forth a shift in our mindset and invite openheartedness is with acts of kindness.  Innumerable studies have shown that performing acts of kindness raises our feelings of well-being and ultimately our happiness, http://bit.ly/kindnessresearch

Think about that for a minute, doing something kind for someone else raises our level of happiness. —talk about a “win-win” situation!

From its purest place kindness blooms from a generosity of spirit—we can describe it as nurturance, care, compassion, altruism or doing for others.  We can “do” kind acts by helping others, but we give the most and get the most back when we act from a place of sincerity.  It seems our psyche knows if we are giving autonomous help, giving because we want to help, or just going through the motions.  The best is to act or give because we want to…not because we feel obligated.   

Oprah Winfrey was the first recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian award in 2002.  Her acceptance speech was humble and spoken from the heart.  You can watch it here: http://bit.ly/oprahaccepts

In that speech she describes growing up with a cast of real characters…Fox and Shorty and Bootsy and Slim…gathering around the holiday dinner table.  She asked her father, “Why can’t we just have regular people at our Christmas dinner?”  To which her father replied, “They are regular people.  They’re just like you.  They want the same thing you do…they want to be fed”.

She goes on to describe how it took her awhile to realize he was not talking about food, rather he was telling her we all just want to know we matter.  We want validation.  We want to be seen.  We want to feel a part of something.

Acting in kind ways towards ourself and others can spring forth from this place of embracing our shared humanity.  Simple acts of kindness can show you “see” someone with all their little imperfections or quirks, and you care enough to choose to give of yourself.  Being kind to ourselves demonstrates the same generosity inward. 

Yesterday I was in a large retail store for the first time since our sheltering in place began in March (and truth be told I’d be happy if I didn’t go in one again for 6 months!).  I had one item to buy and there were 10 people ahead of me in line, being spaced 6 feet apart it seemed the register was miles away.  At first, I was checking email, sending text messages and idly staring at my phone screen feeling impatient and pondering whether I should give up and come back another time.  Then I decided to put the phone away and just “be” in the line.  I looked around at the people standing with me and took a few deep breaths.  Within a few minutes I began a conversation with the woman behind me who was trying desperately to keep her toddler occupied in the hopes of avoiding a meltdown.  I began to talk to the little girl, asking about her dolly, complimenting her pink sparkle shoes, etc.  I soon forgot my impatience and the long line and was having fun while waiting.  Her Mom was laughing too and later thanked me for my kindness and the welcomed diversion.

Consciously breathing, noticing and engaging in a simple act of kindness changed my experience from annoying to pleasant and uplifting.  Kindness from the heart always helps.

So, in the next week maybe you’ll consider ways to be kind to yourself and others…recognizing we are all fighting our own battle during these times.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a cup of tea, settle into your favorite chair and take 10 minutes for yourself. (and yes, even in these times we can all find 10 minutes).
  • Begin or end your day by doing something you love…take a walk in nature, a bubble bath, stretch, savor your morning cup of coffee. Doing little things to nurture yourself is an act of kindness.
  • The next time you’re driving give way to others, hold the door open for someone when entering/exiting a building, or let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.
  • Make it a point to speak to someone who looks different from you, actively practicing inclusivity.
  • When communicating in writing or speaking choose kinder, softer words.
  • Do a few random acts of kindness for people in your life…bring flowers to a friend, cook a meal to share, or offer to make a run to the grocery store.
  • Write a card to someone you care about for no reason except to bring a smile…yes, I’m suggesting a real card sent by USPS. Everyone still likes getting mail.
  • Call a friend you haven’t connected with in a while or send a silly text.

Whatever you choose to do—do it from a place of sincerity and generosity.  We all respond to kindness.  Kindness creates an atmosphere of positivity and we can certainly all use that now.

And I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite quotes on kindness:

“The best portion of a good man’s (person’s) life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”  ~Wordsworth

 “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

 “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~Oscar Wilde