“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” -Dalai Lama
It isn’t only in the midst of family emergencies that the kindness of others makes such a big difference in life. This is often the time we think of going out of our way for someone else, where we offer, “Anything I can do” and mean it. Knowing you have people at your back, being the recipient of small gestures can make all the difference in the midst of crisis.
But it is not only during our challenges that kindness makes a real difference. The absence of kindness throughout childhood development is a growing crisis in this country as our children are taking the crass humor of popular culture to heart. The prevalence of bullying in the youngest grades is baffling even long time teachers. Most disturbing is how parents of these aggressive children often support these dominant behaviors and value popularity over kindness.
Lao Tzu wrote, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” These are the lessons that our society most needs to cultivate during this time of loss and upheaval. Gone are the days of opulence and greed; our cultural icons have to care about more than just themselves. Civility and community have to be reconstructed back into a culture that is often reflected in sarcastic and divisive humor that alienates for the sake of a laugh.
At a time when most school districts in this country are trying to figure out how to keep their doors open 5 days a week, focusing our collective attention on rebuilding the stature of kindness might be the only behavior we can really afford. The truth is that we need each other more than ever in these uncertain times. At every encounter with strangers and friends alike, pause and see if you witness an opportunity for kindness. If you do, which I suspect you will; practice it even briefly and see how you feel.
It might be the most powerful act of positivity that we can demonstrate in a day.