Kindness. Perhaps the greatest thing a person can offer, and it costs nothing. Yet the rewards can be staggering in scale. An appropriate comparison would be investing a single penny in the stock market and reaping millions.
I didn’t discover kindness. It’s always been around. It is an attribute, even a virtue that is contained within the umbrella of humanity. But as we continue to devolve into a world sadly lacking in humanity, I adopted it not as a simple virtue but instead as a lifestyle choice. My life has never been better since.
Many years ago, I was strolling through a local park, weighed down heavily by the events of my day. I saw an elderly man sitting on a bench tossing bits of stale bread to some ducks. I sat down on the opposite end of the bench and just watched for a little bit. Finally, I said hello to the gentleman. He didn’t say anything, his response was limited to a sideways glance and a nod. I didn’t pursue it; I watched the ducks (I love ducks) as they waddled and jockeyed for position to get more crumbs. I eventually stood up and as I walked past him, I stopped, turned to him and said, “I hope you have a nice day, sir.” and I walked off. He immediately responded, “you as well, young man.” I turned and smiled, and my smile was met with one in return. As I continued my stroll through the park I encountered an elderly woman walking towards me. Instead of making eye contact she had her head down and stared at the sidewalk as she approached. “Hello”, I said. I can only describe her reaction as startled. She greeted me in return as we passed. It occurred to me that nobody says hi to anyone anymore. It is lacking so badly that we actually are surprised and sadly, suspicious of others when they engage strangers.
My attitude has always been “A stranger is just a friend you have yet to make.” I know that I am definitely in the minority. And it makes me sad.
I have made a lot of changes in my life. It is a constant and evolving process. I have embarked on a journey with a very simple yet oddly elusive goal; to be able to look the man in the mirror eye to eye and like what I see. I avoided mirrors for a large chunk of my life. It was when I finally asked myself what do you want to be? that I got my answer. I wanted to be something the world needs more of. Not a captain of industry. Not a celebrity. Not a man of fame and fortune. I simply wanted to be a nice person. A man that, at his funeral, the reflections on the deceased were of deeds, gestures and amusing anecdotes and not of fortunes and successes. If I am remembered as a nice guy, I will have lived a good life.
It is possible to be nice and still be a person of accomplishment. By adopting kindness as a way of life, as an instrument of personal conduct, there really is no limit to what one can accomplish with a clean conscience as an added bonus. Accomplishment is not limited to the accumulation of wealth and power. Accomplishment is the satisfaction that your achievements were obtained without stomping on the necks of those who stood in your way. I was very successful; dare I say respected in the automotive finance industry because I chose to do my job with empathy, compassion and a benchmark of how people wanted to be treated. In an industry renowned for cheating and lying, my little corner of the industry was based on basic respect and kindness.
As I have endured epiphany after epiphany of late as I continue to incorporate kindness as a goal and a means of personal conduct. I worry about people, especially as the effects of COVID-based isolation begin to reveal their true damage. I worry that we are losing our humanity as a result of technology, multiple screens in particular. If we don’t put the “human” back in Humanity we are doomed as a people and no technology can change that. I don’t want to live in a world like that.
No one person can help everyone, but everyone can help one one person. And it all starts with just being nice. Say hi to someone. You might be the person who inspires them to have faith in humanity again. Just watch it snowball from there.
Kindness, put that shit on everything.