In a recent interview, Obama was asked what advice he gives his own children. His answer:
“give something back to the world and be kind”
This beautifully simple statement says it all. If you think about it, despite the thousands of words devoted to advice on this subject, to follow the spirit of these words is to lead a life well lived. And while giving back to the world can encompass any number of paths, it really doesn’t get more simple than kindess.
Kindness may simple, but it isn’t always easy. We all have bad days, run afoul of grinchy people, and are sometimes a little grinchy ourselves. Nobody’s perfect. But we all know the people who embody kindness - they’re usually the same ones who move through their day with positivity and aplomb. These people attract others to them like honey to bees. It’s the natural result of being genuinely empathetic to others. Like attracts like, and kindness attracts kindness.
I decided to start 2016 by taking this one step further, and began practicing what author Anne Herbert coined as,
“random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”
Okay, so the beauty part is a little tough in the Canadian arctic landscape that is January! However, I soldiered on, making heart-shaped cookies for my kids, sending homemade cards to friends with whom I’d lost touch, sending the gift of a lumberjack plaid to a homesick cousin who had moved abroad. Gift giving aside, I threw aside my black parka and grey hat, and dug one out of my closet that was electric blue instead. Then I paired it with a hot pink tuque. I felt better already.
As for kindness, full disclosure: some days are better than others (yes, sunny days are better). It helps to remember that everyone, everyone, appreciates a smile and a hello; your neighbour, a stranger, the homeless man panning for coins, a waitress. Many will be surprised - try this on public transit - but I guarantee it will brighten your day. It’s a very small way to bring good into the world each and every day. Imagine those ripples spreading sunshine through your community and out into the world beyond. It’s hard not to smile when you think of it.