An Exceptional Day
World Kindness Day falls every year on November 13th. It may not be a federal holiday or even a Hallmark holiday, but it is certainly a cause for celebration and a celebration for causes. As I scrolled through social feeds this morning, I didn’t see a single post about the topic. There are only 333K posts using #worldkindnessday. There are now 24 MILLION posts of #selfies.
I worry that the world is becoming immune to the idea of kindness. Those of us who value compassion are the first to double tap the beautifully designed “Be Kind” Instagram graphics or put a sticker on our water bottle: In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Are we actually influencing anyone, or is it more of a show of solidarity? I’ve lamented before that kindness feels like an uphill battle. My fear now is that the world is backsliding.
In my The Brave Kind course and retreat curriculum, I sing the praises of volunteering. I’m passionate about the idea but am often met with a lukewarm reception to the idea. I’ll be the first to admit that some weeks I drove my Meals on Wheels route begrudgingly (a few times over the course of 3.5 years are pretty good odds of it being great). My mentee at a Fort Worth high school has decided that her senior year is too busy to participate in the program. I confess that I don’t mind saving myself the two-hour drive every month, especially because I had concerns about conflicts with my new job’s travel schedule. In short, I don’t always volunteer with a joyous heart. I do it because I can.
My latest volunteering opportunity is again delivering meals. The small community center in Hamilton, town of three thousand, delivers nearly eighty lunches every day, Monday through Friday. I drop off twenty-two of them on Mondays on a route called West Side. I consider it more than a coincidence that my Fort Worth route was Westside #1.
Like before, I fill my Subaru with sack lunches or Styrofoam to-go containers. I greet blind people, amputees, young people and old. I bump along the pot-holed streets amidst a poverty-stricken town. It fills my heart with gratitude, not only for what I have in this world, but that I can convey to others that they matter. That feels like the kindest act of all: I do this because you deserve love, even though we are strangers.
I am trying, like others who live in my Pollyanna bubble, not to become a cynic when it comes to kindness and its place in this world. I am also not so naive that I don't see that as Yellowstone gains in popularity, the unscrupulous, tough-as-nails characters are quickly becoming role models for the new hard-hearted version of America. Meanwhile, Ted Lasso was nominated for twenty Emmy awards. Our opinions of admirable character traits are as divisive as our politics.
I do know this: kindness is contagious. Two years ago, I ran a week-long campaign leading up to World Kindness Day. These are selected excerpts from some of the stories that were shared:
“One day at the vet clinic...I overheard the girls talking about a client they were very sad over. An older woman was bringing her dog for his last trip and they knew she loved him like a child but wasn’t going to be able to afford anything beyond a communal cremation. They were planning on donating (money) from their pockets to be able to get her loved one back. I happened to remember those (gift) cards and gave them to the receptionist for that lady...the next time I was in they told me that she had been so moved that a stranger would do that.” ~Lori
“I witnessed a young boy during a torrential downpour offer his umbrella to an elderly man who was leaving the grocery store with his cart. He helped him load his groceries and it was so nice!” ~Taylor
“My husband dropped his phone in a parking lot. He didn’t discover it until about an hour later. After searching the parking lot, in the rain, it was nowhere to be found. Thankfully someone found it and turned it in at the customer service desk. People are good.” ~Karen
“My mum...has always taught me and my siblings to be kind to people of all walks of life and I try to emulate that for my son as he grows up. It isn’t always easy, but...I’m learning more about being kind to myself and others.” ~Leesha
In addition, Tammy gave a ride to strangers who were still waiting for a taxi an hour later, when she’d finished her grocery shopping. Christine celebrated a lifelong friendship. So many friends honored animal rescues, which is one of the most thankful volunteer charges in the world (I would know, I served on the Friends of BARC board in my twenties).
At the end of the week, I heard the same comments from everyone who participated. Even if they didn’t win the prize in my contest, they enjoyed the journey. They discovered they didn’t give themselves enough credit when they took the high road. They realized how rewarding it is to witness others be kind and realize we’re all in this together. Inspired, they were ready to invite more kindness into their lives every single day of the year.