I had just about had it.
The past few weeks (oh, God, it's really only been less than 2 weeks), we have all witnessed acts of cruelty, bias, and meanness. We saw it on our news outlets, social media, and even heard first-hand from our friends.
It seems everywhere I went, people were acting up.
But, in the midst of some of the bad behavior, I found myself looking for examples of kindness. I was looking for examples of people going out of their way to be welcoming, warm, and generous with their time, their homes and their lives.
In a morning meeting with students and faculty at my school, I scrapped my existing presentation and decided to just freestyle about kindness.
I wanted to impress upon the community that "the absence of meanness is not kindness." I said, "Just because you don't make fun of people or tease others. Just because you don't trip people in the hallways or gossip. Just because you don't make others feel bad --- the absence of meanness is not kindness."
Because, after all, the absence of meanness is just neutral. Kindness is an actual act of generosity, of welcoming, of outreach and of goodness. Kindness is not just an act, it's an action
It's time we shifted away from the notion of kindness being an absence of meanness. Kindness is the presence of good.
My partner always asks three questions when encouraging others to make things (e.g., the world, our community, our home) better:
- How do people feel when they spend time with you?
- What do people learn when they have spent time with you?
- What do you do to make things better?
We have all heard of "random acts of kindness" -- things we do without any purpose of acknowledgement or appreciation or recognition. Keep doing those.
I'd also encourage you to engage in "intentional acts of kindness" -- things we do because we know the impact of outreach.
Friends, sometimes those go well and sometimes they don't.
This past week, I decided to engage in intentional acts of kindness. I left a note in one faculty member's box that simply said, "I haven't taken the time to thank you for the great work you have done in _____ department. You inherited a lot of work, and I appreciate and have noticed how much time and energy you put into this." That faculty member and I talked about it afterwards and were both thankful for the opportunity.
I had left another faculty member a note that read, "I wanted to acknowledge that, over the course of a year and a half, I may not have said or done anything kind towards you. I'm sorry for that. I have committed to doing better, and I look forward to being more outwardly thankful for you."
That faculty member has dodged me at every turn -- who went so far as to hide in a classroom when I approached.
Some are ready to accept explicit kindness; others are not.
I found myself - when I saw this person dodge me twice - leaning back into old habits: "Urgh, how rude" or "Uh, way to go, way to not be approachable" or "I knew it -- this is why I'm not kind to you" were all thoughts that ran through my head.
It's hard actively being kind.
I'm not great at it, but I'm going to keep working on it.
What intentional act(ion) of kindness are you willing to do?
Peace and love,