Time for Kindness

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day. It’s so important for us to have a day of kindness, especially before the holidays get all crazy, to remind us about the importance to be kind not just for the sake of others but for ourselves as well. It’s easy to let things escalate or get blown out of proportion, or to get wrapped up in the minutia that really don’t need as much attention as we give it, when a deep breath and pause could give us the opportunity to come back with a response or reaction that won’t be as damaging to our relationships and careers.

I got an email the other day featuring a video with game camera clips from Florida and in it there was a scene where a group of animals walked through some water and it didn’t look that clean. I felt some concern over the fact that we humans may have negatively impacted that bit of water (since the video was taken near what sounded like a major roadway), and was reminded of the fact that we do impact the natural world on a very regular basis through all kinds of actions (and lack thereof), even those we don’t really think about or don’t seem like there might be an impact.

What does this have to do with kindness? It was a reminder to me that kindness isn’t just about the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you give someone a Christmas or birthday gift and they open it in front of you and they’re thrilled, it’s also about the countless little things that we do or ways that we give and never see the impact of.  Kindness is not about what you get in return or what’s in it for you, but about what you give to others without expecting anything in return.

Animals may not be able to express their thanks for us cleaning up the world we all share, but I know they’re thankful that they don’t get tangled in wires or stuck in garbage or covered in oil.  We may give time or resources to organizations that support others and never see how the little we give multiplies to help others.  We don’t know whose lives we support when we donate that dollar or two at the checkout line, but that money goes on to support others who can never tell us they’re grateful. You don’t know what happened in someone’s day when you stop to help them change a tire, reach for a product on a high shelf, hold open a door, or pay for a cup of coffee, but it may turn everything around for them.

When it comes down to it, kindness, giving and thanks go hand in hand.  We can be thankful for opportunities to give, others are thankful to be the recipients of our kindness, and the opportunities to give are endless.  How will you share a kindness with someone today?

Reality Reflection: Love and Kindness

It’s been a rough week for many people. I found out someone I greatly respected passed away recently, my partner got some bad news about his knee, we remembered another 9/11, the Amazon burned, and more lives were lost to hatred or disregard. The other day my partner had on some show that featured Dr. Phil as a guest and he questioned where the humanity has gone, how we used to be able to sit down and talk things through, and now it seems like so many people wait until they’re hitting rock bottom before they’re asking for help or choosing violence over talking. I can’t help but agree, and it’s something I frequently emphasize to my business clients: the importance of remembering we’re all people, humans with feelings and needs and people they care about.

It’s weeks like these that I’m reminded of the importance of the other people that we share this world with. Of taking time to celebrate being alive and surviving through another day. Of sharing this world with amazing creatures like koalas, dogs, turtles and tigers. Of building amazing structures and infrastructure, some that last thousands of years.

It’s so simple and yet we seem to screw it up on a regular basis. None of us are perfect, so why aren’t we able to give each other more flexibility and forgiveness? Why aren’t more of us standing for rebuilding and recovery instead of fighting and defending our little corner of the universe? Why aren’t we taking the time to ask questions instead of just judging or hating? Many have gone through more tragedy in their short lives than anyone should, I’d say it’s past time to circle back to being a community.

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara De Angelis

Kindness for April

Yesterday was one of my least favorite holidays of the year: April Fool’s Day. I have no problem with having fun in life and having fun with each other, but to play pranks on others and tell half truths or lies to people is just cruel on top of all that the world throws at you. I did hear one person’s rules on it for their kid that I could almost get behind and that was there could be no permanent damage, personal injury or cruelty in any of their pranks. That almost makes it OK but I’m still not a fan.

The past few days in my Lent and other devotionals there’s been a lot of talk of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Luke 15 also shares the story of a lost coin and a lost sheep. These devotionals reminded me of how much we can lose in life, from the seemingly small to the life-altering and how that loss affects each of us differently. Some may not have felt so strongly about a lost coin or sheep as the people in Luke 15 did, but to these people those individual coins and sheep were important.

We can screw up our lives on our own without help from anyone else. We rely on the honesty, predictability, and reliability of other people and businesses to run our lives as easily and peacefully as possible and with the least amount of stress. So when we’re faced with something like April Fool’s that gives the not-so-nice people of the world leave to play jokes (regardless of how many ‘just kidding’s’ that are said or sent with the joke), it almost makes me want to stay in bed all day and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, I think we’re a lot closer to getting rid of the time change than we are of April Fool’s Day (I’d like to get rid of both). So my suggestion to help with the darkness, bad energy and bad karma that was added to the world yesterday, is that we all share a little more kindness and compassion with the world for the rest of the week. We should always have it in our minds and actions to be helpful and considerate to others, but with how yesterday may have gone for some people I think it’s more important than ever.

Reality Reflection: Be Kind

In just a few hours it becomes National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  It’s an important day for many reasons, but most of all because it reminds us to be kind.  We need to talk about the bad stuff that happens so that we’re aware of it and can hopefully work on changing/fixing it in the future, but dealing with the bad stuff (robberies, murder, hate crimes etc.) will only fix a small portion of the issues in the world, whereas working on spreading kindness can do much more.

I know we dedicate days to lots of different and specific things, Monday is President’s Day, we just had Valentine’s Day, there’s Memorial Day and Pizza Day, but by the very name “National Random Acts of Kindness Day,” this event encourages us to do something many of us do well, and that’s be random.

Being kind doesn’t have to happen on a schedule, and it shouldn’t. I mean you can plan to do 5 acts of kindness every day, but with all that goes on in our lives it’s hard to really plan out specifically what kind things you’ll do. It’s great if you can commit to helping people in 5 different ways each day, the world would greatly benefit if we all chose to be kind with the same commitment that most check their social streams.

But if we’re honest, part of the magic of being kind is the randomness of it, and doing what needs to be done when the situation arises, which isn’t something you can really plan.  Being consistently kind hearted is a great way to live, but not how most people live, which is why those little moments of empathy, of listening, of opening doors, of getting items off the top shelf, of watching out for others, of letting others know you care are so important and carry such impact.

So especially this Sunday, I would encourage you to live with kindness at the front of your mind.  See what impact it makes on your life and the lives of those around you when you choose to be kind first and foremost.

A Sweet Touch of Kindness

We’re nearing the end of Lent with the arrival of the Easter holidays starting on Sunday with Palm Sunday, and today we were able to celebrate the arrival of spring. Some of us have a spiritual practice of giving something up for Lent, but spring is known for the arrival of new things and Easter is really about a fresh (forever) start. So today I thought we’d talk about something you can start fresh this spring, something that’s Kingdom inspired, as shared in Proverbs 16:24:

“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Kind words are one of the least expensive but sometimes most challenging things we can do. It’s easy to keep our mouths closed and a little too easy to pass on gossip or say something that’s more disparaging than constructive criticism. However, with a little practice I believe we can make kind words not only something that’s sweet, but easy going down too. I think the best place to start is with whatever is easy for you. If it’s easy for you to thank the cashiers, start with consistently thanking them. If it’s easy for you to send a nice, meaningful thought to your partner each day, start with that. If it’s to offer kind words to pets that have been severely neglected or abused by volunteering at animal shelters, start with that. Find something kind that feels good to you and you feel comfortable doing and do it every day, multiple times a day.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight or get in shape knows, one meal or one workout doesn’t an ultimate goal reach. You have to be consistently working on those meals and workouts and starting with small steps and growing to bigger ones if you want to get to your target weight or activity level. The more you’re kind in ways that are practical, normal and easy for you, the easier it will be to branch out into other ways of being kind and saying kind things to others.

What kindness practice will you start today?

Faith and Imperfections

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month one of the things we’ll be talking about is freedom. As I was thinking about these two topics I read these words:

“We’re all broken in one way or another. So let’s be kind” Mary Carver

People of faith are often seen as perfect. Maybe we seem that way because we make people think that, or because we talk about being forgiven and freed all the time. But the fact is just because we’re people of faith, it doesn’t make us perfect. We still need other people, we still have faults and failures, we still screw up and hurt others. Even the people who are living a life of faith that God is proud of (the people who everyone looks up to because of how spiritual and well-behaved they are) aren’t perfect and struggle with the same human experience and emotions that the rest of us do.

People who are “good” are important because they show the rest of us how to live in a way that honors God and reminds us that it is possible and that it isn’t something reserved for people in the Bible or people with an official church title. For those of us who aren’t quite so perfect, it’s not easy to show both sides of this to the world, because we want to be a good reflection on God. But being truthful about the struggles we face on a daily basis or about the challenges God has brought us through not only help those who don’t share our faith better identify with us, it’s a reminder that we’re still people in need of God.

Over and over throughout the Bible there are examples of Jesus and other people of faith who choose to show love and compassion in the face of sin and suffering. Jesus made a point throughout His ministry to show love to those who were suffering or fallen and knew they needed help, but when faced with those who thought they were without reproach or had lost sight of what their faith was supposed to be all about, He didn’t show interest or have mercy (He even lost His temper a time or two).

No one really wants to admit how flawed they are or how badly they screw up, but it’s only in those moments that we can really take account of where our life is and what changes need to be made going forward. It’s also in those moments that we’re given the ability to reach out to others for their support and encouragement. Are you honest with yourself about how broken you are? If so what are you doing about it? And what happens when someone who feels broken comes to you for support?  Are you there for them to support them or just judge them?

This week I encourage you to choose kindness and support, both for others and yourself, when faced with failures and struggles.   Choose to be the person who loves and doesn’t condemn, and the person who’s honest about the help they need.

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16