Letter from the Director, June 2024

Why Kindness Matters

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” – Unknown

Have you ever noticed something in your personality that bothered you? Something you do or an attitude you have that you know isn’t the best? I try to be self-aware and I look at myself in a frank manner. If I see some tendencies which I’d rather not see, that’s the work ticket for change. I set out to amend my behavior or thoughts.

Lately, I’ve felt a little irritated at the world. I’ve not wanted to be bothered with other peoples’ needs, especially if those needs interfered with mine. I’ve wanted the grocery store clerk to ring up my grocery bill and not ask me questions about the food I’ve purchased. I’ve wanted drivers to drive at or above the speed limit and not below it! I’ve wanted my neighbor not to talk about the problem with her dog.  I’ve wanted to get my work done, do my workout, go home and make dinner – and not be expected to do anything for anyone. I could argue that I have good reasons for my “bah-humbug” attitude, but I’m not sure those reasons are valid. Everyone struggles. Lately, I’ve forgotten about gratitude and looking for joy in the small things. When self-awareness switches over to self-absorption, you’ve got a problem. I’ve forgotten to be kind. 

Kindness is a behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, giving assistance, and having concern for others without expecting praise or reward in return. While it is an outward demostration toward another person, there’s something about kindness that blesses the giver as much as, or even more than, the recipient. The act of being kind does something good for the giver’s heart and soul. It sets in motion a wonderful connectedness which acts upon the world in a positive way. It unspins the tight coils of frustration and irritation many of us carry on a daily basis. It brings us out of self-centeredness and into “other-centeredness.” When we can see beyond our “self” and what we’re feeling, all those heavy self-focused feelings start to dissipate. Balance is restored and we can see that our challenges are simply another step in this journey called life. 

Our brain reacts to kindness in positive ways too. Chemicals are released that improve mood, ease pain, and make us feel better about ourselves. Stress and anxiety are reduced and attitudes and mood are elevated. The social bond of being kind can improve our world. If I allow another driver to merge in front of me, that act of kindness might inspire another driver to do something similar and we might have less aggression on the road. If I chat with the grocery store clerk about the chicken salad I’ve purchased, well, I don’t know if there’s any social good that comes from that, but the hard-working clerk might be cheered by my smile! Kindness feeds upon itself, growing with every act, every jubilant gesture. 

Awareness is key here. Action follows. I made a conscious effort to be kinder to others and my attitude changed as well. The effort became more spontaneous and less forced. I found myself smiling. It’s hard to be irritated with the world when you’re genuinely smiling at it too!  

Take a moment today and assess your attitude. You can be many things, but why not try to be kind. Why not change the world (and yourself!) for the better.