Don’t Settle for Nice

“Mean is easy. Mean is lazy. Mean is self-satisfied and slothful. You know what takes effort? Being kind. Being patient. Being respectful.” (Jake Tapper)

[In the six years I’ve been blogging about kindness I’ve sometimes strayed to other topics, but kindness remains my North Star. Usually, I feel confident that kindness will surmount the evil, greed, intolerance, and disregard that threatens the world, but sometimes I am stunned and baffled by the meanness of many of my fellow humans. As we approach the most important election America has ever faced, amidst a global pandemic, I am periodically going to revisit and reexamine some of my earliest thoughts about kindness and explore them in context of today’s circumstances.]

Since the publication of A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You, I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities to talk about kindness—at bookstores, libraries, service organizations, conferences, radio shows, and podcasts. The question I am asked most often is, “What’s the difference between kind and nice? Aren’t they the same thing?”

To some, the difference may be wholly semantic, but I believe there is a vast difference, and the times we are currently living in require that we choose kindness.

It’s fairly easy to be nice. Nice is polite. It’s doing what is expected: smiling at the cashier, holding a door, speaking courteously, not offending. Nice is safe. It doesn’t ask me to take any risk or to make a connection. I can be nice and still make judgments about people. I can be nice and still merely tolerate others, with an insincere smile on my face. I can be nice and remain indifferent, not caring if the person I’m interacting with is getting what they need.

But kind asks more of me. Continue reading

Hindsight 2020: How Will Our Children Remember COVID-19?

“If you can control your behavior when everything around you is out of control, you can model for your children a valuable lesson in patience and understanding…and snatch an opportunity to shape character.” (Jane Clayson Johnson)

When you were a child or adolescent, were there momentous historical events that altered your life and shaped who you ultimately became?

For me, it was the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and also the war in Vietnam. For my parents, it was the Great Depression and World War II. For other generations, the 9/11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina may have etched permanent impressions.

The noteworthy historical event for today’s children or grandchildren could well be the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll remember it not just as that year schools closed and we stayed home a lot, but also for the way we as individuals and as a nation responded to adversity.

Will they tell their own children and grandchildren stories of scuffles over toilet paper, of hoarding and profiteering, of finger-pointing at people of different nationalities? Will they recount the politicization of life-saving, common-sense measures? Or will they describe how, even in isolation, people found ways to connect with and support one another? How neighbor checked on neighbor, shared provisions, and made sure that those who were most vulnerable were not overlooked. Continue reading

Hello in There, Redux….

Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

~John Prine, Angel from Montgomery

John Prine, Wikimedia Commons

I was saddened to learn this morning that the great John Prine died yesterday, another casualty of the coronavirus. I have loved John Prine’s music since I was a teenager. His voice is as piercing as his lyrics, illustrating why Rolling Stone proclaimed him “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”

I wanted to link back to a post I wrote in 2016, which talked about my very favorite Prine song, “Hello in There.” It describes the isolation so many elderly people feel in our society, and it’s particularly poignant today, in the midst of COVID-19, as isolation confronts us all in different ways. I hope you’ll follow the link and listen to Prine’s song and then think about who in your life, or in your neighborhood, could use a “hello” from you.

Thank you, John Prine, for your songs and your spirit. https://ayearoflivingkindly.com/2016/08/18/hello-in-there-hello/

 

Hit the Reset Button

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

I’m not big on making New Year resolutions (What’s she talking about, Leonard? Doesn’t she know it’s nearly April?). But what I do try to do at the beginning of each year is think about who I want to be, what I hope will be different, and what I want my life to look like at the end of the year. Then, I set my monthly, weekly, and daily intentions with that vision in mind.

It’s very organized and kind of nerdy (and maybe a tiny bit OCD). It works for me.

But, here at the end of March, 2020—a month during which the world changed in ways that were unimaginable a short time agoI find it’s time to rethink my priorities and reset my intentions for the emerging brave new world (which, I hope, will not resemble the one imagined by Aldous Huxley).

I wonder, as we hunker down—giving colossal thanks to those on the front lines who cannot hunker—if it would be healthy and wise to take some time to think about who we will be and what the world may look like once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Continue reading

Sharing Your Cup of Kindness…

“We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested…. Here is the exercise: find one wholly unexpected kind thing to do tomorrow and just do it. Notice what happens to your mood.” (Martin Seligman)

Attribution: Donna CameronThe holiday season can be stressful. It’s a time when another year is hurtling toward its close—often reminding us of unmet goals and the swift passage of time. It’s also a time when expectations and obligations collide with excess, and unless we’ve learned to set reasonable boundaries, stress is often the result.

Multiple recent studies show that one great way to counter stress is to spread some kindness. Research by Elizabeth Raposa, Holly Laws, and Emily Ansell, from the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine, showed that when people extend small acts of kindness, such as holding a door, offering assistance, or waving a car into a line of traffic, they experience less stress than on days when they don’t perform these small kindnesses.

The aim isn’t to be the kindest person in the room, it’s to be the kindest version of yourself. Continue reading