Each year, November 13 is World Kindness Day—a call to celebrate kindness and compassion in all its forms. There are so many quotes about the importance of being kind. Mark Twain said, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” “In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” is an unattributed quote I hear often. Bob Kerry said, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Kindness is a choice. You can choose to be kind or you can choose to be apathetic, self-absorbed or even cruel. Choose kindness.
There are many benefits of kindness. Helen James says, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference.” Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Harold S. Kushner said, “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.” The Tiny Buddha site posted, “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.” I like the last two quotes because a case is made for being kind to people even if they don’t “deserve” it.
In fact, the very act of deciding someone doesn’t deserve your kindness is the unkindest thing you can do. The people who need kindness the most are typically those who wear their past hurts like badges of honor. “Be a kind person. Yes, even to jerks. Let them be a jerk. You be a kind person,” Karen Salmansohn said. Jackie Chan said, “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.” The idea is to be the one to take the first step to initiate kindness.
It was Charles Glassman who said, “Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” Trading judgment for understanding is a form of kindness. Kahlil Gibran said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” We need to complete the act of kindness as soon as we think of it. When we wait, we run the risk of never following through. We should spend as much time doing kind things as we do thinking about doing kind things. Kindness changes us. Eric Hoffer said, “Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”
Theodore Isaac Rubin said, “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” Amelia Erhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” She found happiness to be contagious and to have ripple effects. Indeed, if you can change someone’s day with kindness, that person is more likely to be kind to others in their life, and on and on it spreads. Mary Anne Radmacher said, “There are no small acts of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.” Kindness broadens the possibilities for everyone.
Confucius said, “Act with kindness but do not expect gratitude.” Seeking gratitude negates kindness. When you are kind to gain something in return, it is selfish and manipulative. Be kind for kindness’ sake; it is its own reward.
Some ideas for World Kindness Day and every day:
- Say something nice about someone, even when they aren’t present.
- Smile at someone.
- Make eye contact to acknowledge a stranger.
- Pay for someone’s coffee or meal.
- Offer to run an errand for a neighbor.
- Visit a shelter and pet some animals. Perhaps even adopt one.
- Mow someone’s grass or shovel their sidewalk.
- Bring someone their mail.
- Send a letter to someone in appreciation for something they’ve done or simply for the person they are.
- Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hello and catch up.
- Give a blanket, coat, hat or gloves to an unhoused person.
- Offer to watch your friend’s children to give your friend a break.
- Offer to carry something for someone with a heavy load.
- Volunteer to help with a community project.
- Say hello or good morning to someone you typically don’t acknowledge.
- Give something of yours to someone who has admired it.
- Take your unwanted clothes to a local rehab where people are in need of clothing.
- Bring your discarded books to a local prison for their library.
- Forgive someone you believe has wronged you.
- Offer a hand to someone working on a project.
- Listen to someone’s story, even if you’ve heard it before.
- Tell someone you love them.
I’ll leave you with quotes by Henry James: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind, the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind” and Ralph Waldo Emerson, “You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”