The Kindness Principle
Kindness is one of the guiding principles in my life. I carry Kindness cards everywhere I go, and explain to people that I’m practicing guerrilla kindfare when I leave them in restaurant check binders, on checkout counters in the stores, in airplane seats and wherever I am when I remember that I have these in my bag. If you come to my office in Phoenix for an acupuncture session, you will likely see a stack of these cards on my own counter, free for the taking. I encourage people to take these cards, not to hoard, but to pass out as a reminder to everyone that Kindness does, in fact, matter.
There are times when I think I’m being silly, and that people will simply see these cards in public as another source of germs and simply discard them into a bin. There are times when I think, “The world is too jaded, and these words are too small.” And then I’ll go into a store and see one of my kindness cards taped to the wall or counter. I once had a waiter tell me how much he needed a message of kindness right at that moment and how much he appreciated this gesture. I’ve had acupuncture clients tell me how they keep a card taped on their mirrors or dashboards of their cars as reminders to smile or check their attitudes. For me, it’s a reminder that being kind is a choice, and if I’m not choosing this, I’m choosing something much less beautiful in this world that is thirsting for compassion and warmth in any interaction. It’s often my reminder to check my attitude when I’m feeling hopeless or less than gracious on any given occasion.
At the end of the day, all we really have are our attitudes. We get to choose how we treat ourselves and, in turn, we get to choose how we treat others. What if we all just started with the premise that Kindness Matters? What if we spoke kindly to ourselves and were more conscious about how we address others? Kindness doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can simply be smiling at ourselves in the mirror or making eye contact and smiling when we pass another in the store or on the street. It can be allowing another person in front of you in traffic or in a checkout line, or voicing a compliment to a stranger. I believe that Kindness is inherent to our being, and that we too often withhold these impulses for fear of rejection or because it may feel weird to tell a random person that you like their shoes. Open your heart and do it anyway! Say nice things to yourself and to others. At the very least, don’t say anything that can be hurtful.
This feels more important today than it has at any other time in my life. Many people are struggling on so many levels, and the divisiveness in our country is palpable, to say the least. What if we could all begin to adopt an attitude of Kindness? What if we all started to bring the concept of Kindness mattering into the forefront of our psyches, and made more of an effort to speak and act from this intention? It’s not about me and you, it’s about us. You matter. Your feelings matter. Your needs matter. We will all stumble and forget. But how lovely would it be if were to act as reminders for one another? When we do this, Kindness and Love win. And that matters.
This poem, called Kindness (of course!) is a lovely reminder of this principle. Click the link below to watch a short video version of the poem read by the author, Naomi Shihab Nye.
Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.