When we look at the way life unfolds for each of us, it’s evident that we’re faced with a multitude of choices each day, what we wear, what we say, and when we wake up in the morning all change the outcome of our entire lives each moment. Even the most minute choice, emanates a ripple effect we either become conscious to or remain unconscious of.
When it comes to kindness, the choice that’s presented to us in each aspect of our lives, is presented rather as a recognizing and remembering. Years go, walking quickly to Penn Station in New York City, I was caught in the hustle and bustle of every day life. I was swept up in getting to my destination to take a train back to New Jersey. After a quick winded journey, as I arrived at Penn Station I noticed a homeless woman holding the door for all of the commuters. Thousands of passerby’s were simply going about their routine, oblivious to the open door being held open by this homeless woman. Naturally as I went through the door, I reached in my pocket to give a dollar as a material compensation for this lady’s kindness. Much to my surprise, the woman holding the door denied my donation. Taken off guard, alls I could say was thank you. “You’re the first person all day to say thank you.” She said. A strong feeling rippled through my heart and for a moment I felt like I was frozen in time. We looked at each other and smiled. I then continued on with the rest of the world and rushed to my train. As I sat on the train and stared out the window I couldn’t shake the encounter I had with this woman. Mostly I couldn’t believe all day no one had said thank you to this lady. Deeper still I could sense this underlying recognition of something much more profound. My simple kindness of saying thank you for her courteous gesture, was enough to make this woman without a home smile. I was swelling up with tears, remembering how each of us looks for comfort in others. Kindness is the type of comfort that lets each of us know, even if only for a moment, that we are appreciated, accepted and loved by life. Now years later, I find myself often thinking of this homeless lady who helped so many of us make the commute home more simple. And I wonder often,wherever she is if ever I cross her mind with warm regards as to the door I opened by saying thank you.
That’s the type of choice kindness is. A recognition of simple acts that send waves out into the darkest corners of the world. The cliche of random acts of kindness would make us assume that in some way we should choose better actions more responsibly. It’s much more simple and straight forward than that. Kindness is listening for an authentic response when you ask, how are you? Kindness is picking up trash along the beach as we admire its beauty. Kindness is the recognition of life’s precious moments and instead of passing them by, choosing to remember them in a way that makes an impact. We’ve all heard that no act of kindness is too small, and that’s the truth.
But how can we be kind when it seems the most difficult? Where is kindness when it seems like life only offers harshness and adversity. The answer, is not always easy to see but it comes disguised in another question. Have you taken time to be kind to yourself?
Sometimes, we become so caught up in doing for others, we forget to replenish ourselves. For years growing up, I watched my mother bend over backwards to please anyone and everyone she could. That type of selflessness I admire about my mom, and as I got older I saw first hand the toll this took on her. I could see the stress on my moms face, exhausted from a day of doing for everyone but her. It taught me a profound wisdom, if we aren’t first gentle and kind to ourselves, we cannot truly help others in need.
The paradox however is, by taking the time to be kind to yourself, you have more kindness to share with others and further, they then have ample to help someone else. In another blog post I mentioned a technique for realistic self care that is a good example of how to be gentle and kind to yourself. However there’s some other ways I’d like to mention. The language in which we talk to ourselves also causes a ripple effect in our personal lives. If you wake up and tell yourself each day negative things about yourself, from your appearance to your intelligence, it is a sure way to feel horrible all day. You’ll reflect all the ugly qualities you feel when you look in the mirror. It may seem silly, and as if if it doesn’t matter at all, but the same is true when you speak sweetly to yourself. One thing I try to do every morning upon waking up, even though it felt untrue and ridiculous at first was to tell myself that I love myself. I’d say goofily, “I love you, me.” Then I’d affirm that I’m a good person, that I’m loved. I try to confirm all the qualities I like about myself. For awhile when I started I hardly could believe any of these kind things I’d point out about myself. Then something amazing happened, without even trying, I’d wake up in a better mood then when I went to bed, I’d look in the mirror and be thankful for the person I saw. What happened by proxy as my day went on, was I was able to uplift others by complimenting them on whatever positive quality I could see in them. Slowly but surely, my entire environment was emanating kindness without any effort or me choosing.
I’ll leave you with this, when it seems difficult to be kind to yourself or to others, do the next best thing. You’ll find, that it always in some ways leads you back to kindness. After all kindness isn’t a choice, it’s the byproduct of the recognition that once we open to life’s gentleness, kindness is rippling through our life one wave after the next.