I want to be the kind of person who is helpful and considerate to others. But I find my own life is so busy that I miss opportunities where I could be more supportive. Or I just don’t have the energy (or the money) to do what others seem to need. I don’t feel very good at being kind, even though I have it in my heart.
Signed: Being Kind
Dear Being Kind,
The old adage that says, “It’s the thought that counts” jumps to mind as I read your question. Kindness begins with an intention to be gentle and caring towards another person. And it seems to me that you very much have that desire in your heart. Being able to recognize when someone is in need is a great personal attribute to develop. But we cannot be so focused on others that we lose sight of our own priorities, needs and responsibilities. We have to keep our attention tuned into ourselves, and on our immediate circle (children, partners, friends/family, etc) before we turn our focus to those on the periphery (acquaintances, community members, strangers). This is how we stay in balance. We are no good to anyone if we give away all our energy, time and resources. And sometimes, our own life can be very demanding. We might actually be the ones in need of the support and kindness from others (and we have to allow ourselves to accept this, if that’s the case).
Kindness is often thought of in terms of exceptional gestures (movie-of-the-week kinds of things). We see so many grandiose acts of giving or doing for others on Tik Tok or YouTube that we might be tempted to think that the little ways of showing decency and respect and caring are not really enough anymore. But this could not be further from the truth. The reality is, every single human being is in desperate need of kindness, at any given point in the day. We may not see the results of the kindness we offer to our fellow human beings. Their ability to process what we have shown them takes a few minutes and can sometimes not register for hours (until that person has time to catch their breath and slow down a moment, to reflect on what they experienced). But in no way does this delayed response lessen the impact of the kindness shown and received.
So how can you be supportive without it ending up costing you a lot of time, energy and money? That’s easy.
Think smaller. Focus on simple acts of acknowledgement to the people you interact with every day, already. Little gestures – like a smile, a gentle touch, a compliment about a strength you are seeing, a loving word about how much you cherish someone – have a massive impact when they are done with genuine love and caring. Challenge yourself to make this kind of focus a priority with those you live with/spend the most amount of time with.
Think broader. The moments when we express empathy and appreciation for strangers touches the lives of others in ways we will not always realize. Write a note of thanks to the person who served you at the restaurant. Hold a door, wink, nod your head, give a thumbs-up sign to the parent who is frazzled because their child is screaming, or the cashier who seems exhausted, or the driver who has cut in front of you. We don’t know the battles another person is waging in their own lives – but when we take the time to “see” someone who is feeling less than understood, we can change a life.
Think more practically. When we offer basic, common-sense support to others, we are often offering a lifeline to someone who is in real need. Share space in your garbage bin when a neighbour’s is overflowing. Drop off a plate of baked goods or an extra serving from the supper you have made for your family, to someone who lives alone. Save your cartons/bottles and share them when fundraisers are happening. Take a moment to offer gently used items that you no longer want to people on Pay-It-Forward pages, Karma Pantry’s, Little Lending Libraries or local Put-and-Take drop offs. Including others in the process of your own life is a way to show kindness through what you are doing already.
Every little gesture starts a kindness ripple that can reach great magnitude. Remember to take a breath and feel that ripple, deep down in your own soul as well. The act of being kind gives back to us. Sometimes, we get to see the end results (the happiness and surprise). But even if we don’t, we always get the chance to feel the boomerang effect on our own energy levels when we express kindness. Revel in these benefits – soak them in and let them fill you up – don’t minimize what you have done or push past the feelings too quickly. You deserve them too!
Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your answer will be provided confidentially.
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