Kindness seems to be a lost art these days. It’s a rare gem, hidden amidst the pushers of haste and the irritable groaners. I often search for it as I’m going and doing out in the world, and what I see is a lot of people that want nothing more than to stay to themselves. I get that. I really do. I’ve been one of them many times.
But it still makes me sad to think the majority of people out there going and doing are so consumed by themselves; they really don’t think to look any further.
I try to work on this in my corner of the world. I often feel compelled to engage with other people. I try to be intentionally kind when chatting with the cashier or passing by someone who appears to need a little lift. Oftentimes, it lights us both up with a new air of goodness. Sometimes, my words and smiles fall on empty ground- no new buds are gonna grow there.
But I still keep trying.
Most of the time, it’s worth it.
I’d like to think there are at least five simple ways to be kind. These efforts of kindness are truly doable for us all. Here’s what I find most inspiring:
When we are kind, we have more energy and feel better about ourselves and the world we live in.
So here goes…
1. Smile. Seriously, just freaking smile would you? When the cashier asks for your I.D: Smile. When the crosswalk guard waves to you: Smile. When you’re at your kid’s sporting event: Smile. When you’re walking through the grocery store: Smile. When you are in the break room at work: Smile. When you are out in this world, doing what you do: Smile.
You know how it feels when someone smiles at you, right? Just think how many people you can show kindness to with simply curving up your lips and showing your teeth. It’s infectious, and in this simple act itself- you are lighting up the world because what often happens when you smile? Others smile too.
2. Give Eye Contact. This one is just really interesting to me, because I rarely see eyes anymore. I’m out and about and NO ONE LOOKS AT EACH OTHER. We are all drifters in our own little worlds, looking into our phones or minding our own business- not interested in what is happening around us.
What really fascinates me, are the conversations I can have with people without them looking at me at ALL. They do not feel the need to even give me a glance. Apparently the digital age has stolen this valuable social skill too. Have you ever noticed when you DO make eye contact with someone else? Connection happens. We need more connection. No, NOT internet connection-HUMAN CONNECTION.
3. Say “Thank You.” What happened to manners? I know many of you have them, and use them, but there are some really rude people out there. A simple thank you can have an enormous impact on a person, don’t you think? I might as well add “Please” to this list too. Any time you have a chance, say these words and mean them.
Appreciation goes a long way in this world. We need more of it. I think there are many people who do their jobs or live in their roles without the gratitude they deserve. I’ve witnessed people walking away from others with no mention of a thank you, and I’ve also seen many request or demand things with no “please”. Why are we so intolerable these days? These words translate into respect. We all deserve that, yes? Two words, they make a difference. Let’s all use them more.
4. Acknowledge other people’s presence. As you fly by those people in your life that you pass over and over again, it’s a really kind thing to acknowledge their presence in any way you can. Remember #1, #2, and #3? They can be applied here too. I wave at the poor janitor who got dealt the hand of standing out in the cold, the rain, and whatever other weather conditions that arise, to monitor the morning school drop offs. I may be tired and distracted, but waving and smiling and looking at him as I drive by is a simple gesture he might appreciate. He smiles and waves back every time. I’ve been known to do this at both my kids’ schools, and I’m surprised to have teachers thank me for my morning waves and smiles.
It takes little effort, and yet it goes a long way to acknowledge those people you pass on a regular basis. They are out there in your community, doing their job as best they can. Wave, nod, smile, say please and thank them, would you?
5. Compliment someone. This one’s my favorite thing to do, but it takes just a little itty bit more effort on your part. When we are in public, there are so many people we see and often we think to ourselves how cute they look in those boots, or how cool their car is, or how adorable their kid is- why don’t we just SAY IT to them? I seem to be one who has no problem doing that. I just love seeing people’s faces light up after I deliver an impulsive compliment to someone I pass when I’m out in the world. I’ve had few ‘adverse affects’ of this approach (Really. Crazy right? Well, actually they thought I was.), but more often it surprises them with delight.
If we have nice thoughts about people, why not tell them? It doesn’t take much time at all, and I promise it’s worth those few seconds of discomfort when approaching someone with kind words. I wish more people did this. If you are naturally shy, I understand your hesitancy. But may I challenge you to step out of that safe place and go for it? It won’t be as painful as you anticipate it to be. I promise. And the payoff is totally worth it.
We all live in a world where kindness is so desperately needed. I’m still working on all of these ways to be kind, especially on those bad days. You know the ones, right? I think those are the days I need to invest more kindness into the world, because it ultimately makes me FEEL more kind- and that’s always a win in my book.
As if this isn’t enough to motivate us toward being kind, think about your kids if you have them. My kids are often with me as they observe these things and consequently pick up many kind habits themselves. I LOVE seeing kindness in both my kids- the eye contact, the smiling, the waving and hearing them say “please” and “thank you” or compliment another person. On the flip side, I’ve also heard them scream at drivers from the back seat. Ahem. I’m still working on car kindness. *Cough cough*.
The bottom line is this: Our kids will COPY US.
If we model for our children these simple acts of kindness, just think how the next generation can fill our lives, our stores, our schools, our work places- our world with more of what is truly lacking and sorely needed.
It doesn’t take much, just more intention and awareness.
We all need to have more of both.
(This post originally appeared on The Mom Cafe)
About the author: Christine Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at The Mom Cafe for nearly five years, and is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. She hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through humor, inspiration and faith. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.