At this time of the year with the holiday of Valentine’s Day approaching, I am always drawn to the concept of sharing love and kindness to those whose paths we cross on our earthly journey. As a former 1st and 2nd grade teacher, I always made it a point to accentuate the need for children to show kindness to their classmates, to the people responsible for teaching and raising them, and to their family and friends. It was always a thrilling moment when the kids exchanged valentines and had their desks covered with all of the positive and caring sentiments that their fellow students had made for them. The expressions on their faces were priceless as they opened each valentine and then affirmed thanks to the ones who gave them such a precious gift. I always aimed at capturing the class’s attention at such a teachable moment to use it as a way of getting to the topic of how we were to treat others. The important points often included the following ideas:
- The Golden Rule- Treat others like you want to be treated.
- Share with a classmate.
- Show respect to each other, and to those in authority.
- Use good manners, by saying “Please” and “Thank you”.
- Help those in need- If a classmate falls, help them up. If a classmate is upset, try to comfort him or her.
- If you don’t have something nice to say to a friend, and are tempted to say something mean, then don’t say it at all.
- Be kind to those around you in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus, and at home.
- Be a good role model for others.
I know that many other teachers have taught the same concepts in their classes. Therefore what has happened in our country today? I have never seen such animosity, hatred, and violence. In our adult world it appears as if any concept of kindness towards fellow human beings has faded into the woodwork. The political scene has been disastrous! I have often chosen not to watch the Evening News or read Facebook entries, because the comments made are filled with anger, hatred, and intolerance towards anyone who thinks different from the speaker, or writer.
I know that we are a nation of diverse people. I see this fact as a very positive point, because we can learn from different kinds of people. As we cross paths with people of different ethnicities and various colored skins and beliefs, we have the opportunity to grow as a person and expand our own horizons. I acknowledge that I have become a better person as my life has been enriched by my African-American friends, by my friends from the Philipines, my Indian friends, my Korean friends, my Russian friends, my Turkish, Egyptian, and Iranian friends, and my friends from Nigeria and Kenya. My son and daughter-in-law have adopted 3 African American girls, who truly light up my life!
I will have to admit that the current situation in our country absolutely breaks my heart. I agree with so many people, who believed that there was no good choice for a Presidential candidate this past November. Therefore, each of us had to make a choice of who to vote for. Since November what I have witnessed has been so distressing. There has been a continual barrage of condemnation for anyone who voted for Trump, or for anyone who voices something positive about the President. Madonna has spoken about bombing the White House. Performers have been blacklisted, if they have been perceived as an ally of Trump. Even in our own city, Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armor, has been under fire for making a supposedly positive statement about Trump. On Inauguration Day businesses occurred broken windows and damage to their buildings as paid protestors went on a rampage. Disparaging remarks were made about the President’s son.
On the other hand, I know that recent immigrants have felt threatened by the new policies of our President. It has been horrible to see how some of our immigrants have been treated by fellow students in schools, and how fellow Americans have been unfairly treated by some of our police. People accuse fellow Americans of being racists, bigots, and in being intolerant. Yet, so often the people making those accusations are being intolerant towards anyone with a different opinion than theirs.
Everyone wants to have a voice, and in our country we are blessed to have freedom of speech. It is fantastic that we have the ability to speak what is heavy on our hearts to others. Yet, it needs to be done in a way where others are not being condemned and belittled for their beliefs. We can speak in a civil manner with respect for people who we disagree with.
The bottom line is that arguing and fighting is not a pleasant way to exist. These behaviors actually are harmful to our health, and the health of our families. In the publication, Psychological Science, a recent study showed that those who focused on warm, and compassionate thoughts about themselves and others were happier and healthier, due to how these behaviors affected the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve regulates how efficiently heart rate changes with breathing. The greater its tone, the higher the heart-rate variability and the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and other major killers. It may also play a role in regulating glucose levels and immune responses. It also influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. It has been found that the higher the vagus tone the greater closeness a person will experience with others, as well as having more altruistic behaviors. Therefore, scientific research has shown that kindness definitely has many benefits for our bodies and our over-all health.
The Greek word for kindness, as used in the New Testament, means uprightness or benevolence and describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing our patience. Kindness can be quite unnatural, since when we have been offended, we tend to react in anger or bitterness. Kindness helps us to do just the opposite, in such cases- to respond with love and forgiveness. Titus 3:4-5 states:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy.”
God shared His kindness to us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive us of our sins, and for His Spirit to dwell within us to help us with all of our struggles here on earth. He asks us to share the kindness that He bestowed upon us, to others. Ephesians 4:32 states:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
1 Corinthians 13:4 gives us a fuller picture of kindness:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
In an article, entitled “Love One Another”, from Focus on the Family, the point is made that Jesus loved people: thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, sick people, poor people, wealthy people, children, and His followers. He loved people who were devoted to Him and those who were different, difficult, and dangerous. His love has not changed in over 2,000 years. Since we are loved by Him, He calls us to love like Him. He desires for us to:
- Forgive one another- even when they don’t deserve it or ask for it. This demonstrates a love that keeps no records of wrong.
- Accept one another- to love like this one is patient and kind, even when someone doesn’t meet your expectations.
- Honor one another- esteem others as highly valuable.
Our ability to love others comes from God. We can only give love when our hearts are full of God’s love.
Listen to other statements about kindness from well-known personalities that I found on the blog, inkhappi.com:
- “As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.”- spoken by Caroline Kennedy
- “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” spoken by Albert Schweitzer
- “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” spoken by Princess Diana
- “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” spoken by Mark Twain.
- “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” spoken by Aesop
- “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” spoken by Audrey Hepburn
- “Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping others in need. To me those are traditional values.” spoken by Ellen DeGeneres
- “But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world. There’s incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.” spoken by Dave Matthews
Consequently, it is up to each of us whether we choose to participate in acts of kindness or not. We can choose to make a positive difference in our dark world by the specific things that we say or do. As we demonstrate kindness to others, we model for our children how they can share it, as well. And, we display how we can have hope in the midst of despair.
The writer of the blog, inkhappi.com,shares a list of:
20 Simple Things You Can Do Everyday To Show Kindness
- Say a friendly hello to a stranger.
- Sincerely compliment someone.
- Favors: Hold a door or pick up or carry something for another person.
- Say I love you to someone you love.
- Hug someone.
- High Five someone.
- Thank someone.
- Contribute 10 or more minutes to a good cause.
- Give something to someone- food, money, flowers, etc.
- Do an anonymous favor for a family member or friend.
- Make someone laugh.
- Defend someone.
- Express concern for someone with needs.
- Talk to someone shy or lacking in confidence.
- Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
I also found another article by Anna Ranson on her blog, The Imagination Tree. Anna has a list of acts of kindness for kids. I will share some of her well-intentioned ideas.
Acts of Kindness for Kids
- Feed the birds.
- Donate books to a doctor’s waiting room.
- Give magazines to a hospital.
- Bake cookies or cake and share with others.
- Tidy away toys.
- Make your bed.
- Pick up litter.
- Call Grandma and Grandpa.
- Donate toys and clothes to needy kids
- Send happy mail.
- Sort the laundry.
- Clear the table.
- Say Hello.
- Walk the dog.
I would like to add a few other ideas.
- Help neighbors with yard work or getting their mail when they are traveling.
- Tell a veteran thank you for his or her service to our country.
- Bake cookies and/or make cards of appreciation and deliver them to our police force and our fire-fighters.
- Visit a nursing home or rehab center and visit those in care, singing songs to them.
- Visit the pet shelter and read a story to the pets. The Miller Branch library has a program where children can participate in this venture.
- Make a card for someone who is sick or has lost a loved one.
- Visit and/or help make a meal for a family where one of the parents are in the military and have gone overseas.
- Take care of a neighbor’s pet.
- Look for opportunities where you can shed the light of kindness and hope to the people who cross your path.
- Make homeless bags that include crackers, socks, hand sanitizer, tissues, and lotion, and then hand them out to the homeless people who you come across.
- Pay for the person behind you at a fast food restaurant- paying it forward.
In closing, remember that kindness does matter in this world that we live in. You can make someone’s day by sharing your light of kindness, encouragement, and hope.
May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,