Make Kindness Your New Year’s Resolution
I recently wrapped up my 14 week kindness “class”. This class was offered to the general public by the Puget Sound Community School, a private school in Seattle for 11 to 18 year olds. The school founder, Andy Smallman, created the class “to start ripples of kindness that will be felt in far away places, touching others and creating even more kind acts.”
Each Sunday we were given assignments to perform that week. The assignments ranged from doing something kind for ourselves, because you can’t be kind to others if you’re not kind to yourself, to doing something kind anonymously to leaving something nice for someone to find, etc.
There were a few things I did that I felt really good about. With my niece Maddie, who was visiting from Australia, we wrote and left uplifting notes on the car windows of people parked at the Unemployment Office. When the assignment was to do something kind for the neighborhood I cleaned out the storm drains. One assignment instructed us to do something kind for someone we love. I made a very nice bountiful lunch for my husband and included a sweet note with an inspirational quote on it. He was greatly touched.
I was moved and inspired by what others did. Even the smallest kindnesses made a big impact. One woman discovered a ripe strawberry late in the season in their strawberry patch and instead of savoring it herself; she offered it to her husband. He then offered her half. Another participant left a beloved kite in a well traveled path in Gasworks Park with a note to take it and fly it. For the assignment to do something kind anonymously, a participant gave her mean landlord a big potted poinsettia wishing him Happy Holidays. I love that someone who probably most needed kindness but didn’t seem to deserve it was the recipient of a kind act.
While none of the assignments changed the world, they did create ripples of goodness both for the participants and for those receiving the acts. In fact, one recipient of a kind act (a discovered bag of bath salts with a short note explaining it was part of the kindness class, with the URL for the kindness blog), was so touched by the gesture she then joined the class and started doing the assignments as well.
The assignments made me stop and think about how I am in the world. One of the last assignments was to do some small acts of kindness. Nothing big. While in a copy store late in the evening I noticed a strange-acting man walk into the store. My usual reaction would be to fear him or judge him. Instead I consciously felt compassion for him, and that was due to the kindness class.
Being kind is not hard. But it takes being aware of your actions, how you interact with people, especially rude people. It takes noticing how you can help. Kindness is a big part of etiquette. Etiquette is about making others feel comfortable. When you are kind, you make people comfortable and help them to feel special.
For 2010, I encourage you to think about what you can do every day to be kinder. Andy is offering another kindness class and is also running an advanced kindness class that uses a book as guidance. There may still be room in both classes.
Even if you don’t join the class, think of the little kindnesses you can do every day; like wishing the parking garage attendant a good day, or letting someone ahead of you in line, or being a more patient driver. I encourage you to share what you do on this blog. Sometimes it takes seeing what others are doing to inspire you to do your own kind acts.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temple; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” –The Dalai Lama
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