The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a struggle. There’s been some difficulty becoming motivated, and I’m not sure why that is other than that I suffer from depression, anxiety, and all those other fun things, and often that is enough. Depression fatigue, perhaps, a real thing I might talk about another time. But I wanted to write something. Writing is important to me now, even if it’s mostly crap, as it lifts me up and gives me purpose, though as often the subjects I choose to write about can be difficult and draining to explore. So today I wanted to talk about something a bit fluffier, a bit lighter, a bit less draining and in fact more uplifting, but absolutely no less important to how we interact with the world around us and the other homo sapiens on it.
People are good and kindness is a thing, and so on and so forth, and I’m sure some people are getting tired of me saying stuff like this (fair warning – no plans to stop). Most YouTube videos about this, though, deal with gestures of kindness and generosity that involve spending money; buying someone’s groceries, picking up a pizza and sharing it with a homeless person, helping out someone living below the poverty line survive a month, and these are wonderful things I will not dismiss, and not only because I have been at the pointy end of actions like these myself (forever grateful). As someone who does not often have spare change in his pocket to give to a panhandler or to pay for the person behind me in a drive-thru, or to go through one myself, how can I express kindness other than talking about it here?
How can I practise what I preach? Let’s take a look at a few off the top of my head, and those suggested by friends after I asked for ideas on Facebook. It’s not as easy a thing as you might think, which is why this will probably not be the first of these posts I make. Also, though some are fairly obvious, think about how often you actually use them, and if the answer is all the time (which it very well may be), be proud of that.
So, in no particular order that I can be bothered to explain:
Smiling, and I mean an honest, open smile of simple pleasure, not one of those half-baked ones everyone knows is phoney, is a contagious thing, like yawning. We tend to reflect the emotions presented to us. Be genuine in this with everyone, and even if you have to think about doing it at first it will become a very pleasant habit eventually.
Use Your Good Words
These are the ones your parents probably taught you as a child; The Pleases and thank you’s and especially the you’re welcomes. In many places of our fast-paced western culture, these have been forgotten, or are spat without meaning as dry husks of the rich things they once were. More than just common sense civility, when you say these with meaning, and maybe that smile you’ve been practising, it can light someone up and maybe change the course of a day going bad.
Forget gender restrictions with this one, and don’t be afraid of them. If they’re offered with honesty and again, that smile you should be getting good at by now, most people will accept them at face value without thinking you’re some kind of weirdo creep stalker, but even if they do, the kindness still counts. Give one to a stranger in the checkout line at Walmart, the close friend you think you never have to, or sometimes yourself.
Donate Unused Items
This is one I thought of the other evening when I was trying to figure out things I could do and glanced around my little hovel for inspiration. I began to notice things I have but do not use, and not all little inexpensive items, either. So I’ll be putting together a box for the Salvation Army thrift store soon.
This is a tough one since a person’s time is often more valuable to them than their money. I have asked about volunteering at one of the two food banks I use and even taken an application home, but it’s still a struggle for me even though I often have an abundance of free time. The folks there are wonderful and friendly, they honestly seem to enjoy helping out, and it’s something I will eventually do once I can manage the space and the crowds better.
Write a Positive Review
It’s a shame that for most of us, we’ll only speak up about a business or an individual we’ve dealt with when things go bad. People feel righteous about filing complaints, and that’s perfectly fine when you’ve got something to actually complain about. Consider, however, how often you’ve written a complimentary letter or YELP review about someone who served you in some capacity. This will not only encourage better service far more than complaints will, but really light up someone’s face when they get called into their manager’s office to get a copy.
There’s an interesting story related to this one I have in my vault. When I worked on ambulance, there was one gentleman who was a well known frequent customer, and prone to writing angry letters about the crews and the service he would receive when he called. When he wrote a letter about my partner and I, it stood out because it was glowingly complimentary, one of the very few of that tone he’d ever sent. Though I know we did so much more good than that, and no, I didn’t work for the compliments or external validation, it was also the only one I ever got.
So this is a good start. There are many more ideas to explore, and I’m sure I will in a future post. Feel free to share yours in the comments, or even consider using the Twitter hashtag #NoCostKindness and share with the rest of the world.
Like Ellen always says, be kind to one another. There’s some very simple truth in that.