Kindness is something that happens more often than we realize or notice. It’s just that most of the time when it happens, they are small acts- simple and spontaneous gestures. While these gestures may make our lives a bit better in the moment or even make us smile, most of us don’t deliberately spend energy thinking about them beyond that brief moment. Recently though I tried to be mindful of the simple acts of kindness I experience in my life and was pleasantly surprised to find that my list was a lot longer that I had expected. Here’s just a few examples from my list…and interestingly most of the kind acts are from complete strangers:
- When the old man running along the reservoir said “Hi” and “Good Morning” to everyone he passed by- making many of us on the trail smile.
- When the driver in a car flashed the high-beams to let me know that I didn’t have my car lights on.
- When another driver held up the traffic behind him so that I could take a left turn out of a parking lot instead of being stuck.
- When I asked for more hot water for my tea at a local coffee shop and the barista just gave me another tea bag for free so that I could enjoy a fresh cup.
- Seeing this “Love your Neighbor” sign on my street.
- When the couple walking by stopped to make conversation with me and my toddler- just to say hello.
- When the employee from Trader Joes helped me out to my car when I looked overloaded with a cart full of groceries and my two girls. He didn’t accept a tip and made friendly conversation the entire way to my car.
- When my friend left a flower anonymously on the doorstep of another friend to thank her.
- When my older daughter gave her younger sister the last gummy snack pack- not knowing there was another box of gummy snacks in the pantry. When she realized there was more, her face lit up with excitement, and I knew that her small sacrifice was truly selfless.
Taking inventory of kindness in our lives can bring positivity into a world that is typically filled with a constant barrage of negative news. Last December at a retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, our mindfulness teacher described how important it was to realize that for all the negative news we hear, there are a lot more positive things that happen in the world that we don’t hear or talk about. The key is to try to expose ourselves to the positive news- to make a habit out of becoming more aware of the good that happens.
I want my girls to be cognizant of the small acts of kindness that they witness or experience in this world. To begin this process, we expanded the use of our Family Kindness Jar. Now we not only put a stone in the kindness jar when we perform or catch kind acts at home, but we add a stone if we witness kind acts outside of home as well. I have started testing this out with my 5-year old and ask her to name some kind acts she sees at school. Her responses don’t come immediately and she has to pause to think about her day, but each time she comes up with a thoughtful response. For instance, she said she saw a friend rubbing another classmate’s back when the classmate was sad. She also saw a friend check on another who had a boo-boo. All the examples my daughter provides are nothing short of extraordinary, but not because they are such grand gestures of kindness, but because they are such beautiful organic examples of kindness starting at the youngest of ages.
Another way to catch kindness is literally using Orly Wahba’s “Catching Kindness Cards.” The idea behind these cards is that when you find someone doing a kind act, you hand them a card. At that point they are tagged to find the next act of kindness. In this way you essentially pay forward the act of noticing kindness. You can also subscribe to Wahba’s Daily Kindness Digest or to outlets like Little Things to learn about inspirational positive stories that are happening around the world. If we start exposing ourselves to the good stuff, if we are mindful of the seemingly insignificant acts of kindness, we soon realize that there is actually great significance in them and that perhaps the world is not as bad as our social media news feeds make it out to be.