Kindness Is Always In Style
Growing up as an only child, I loved our trips to Tennessee. Aunt Martha had six children; playing and bonding with cousins, while surrounded by loving family are some of my most cherished childhood memories.
My older cousin Janet, married a man named Jim Baxley, and they had five boys of their own. I was in my mid-20s when I got my first real two-week summer vacation, with the ability to load my young family in the car and head to Tennessee so they could meet their ever-growing number of cousins. Janet and Jim invited us to stay with them in Bristol.
They were warm, loving, humble people; our family quickly felt welcome and comfortable. We all slept on the living room floor, and loved every minute of it.
Jim was a true southern gentleman, a clever sense of humor, with a demeanor similar to TV character Mr. Rogers, very easy to love. He was a well-known fixture in his local community as the editor of the Bristol Herald Courier. His readers looked forward to his comments regularly.
“Dad’s National Day of Kindness will soon be here, the 17th of October, as always. I think he would say, don’t wait until tomorrow to spread a little kindness, start today.”
When I read the column and his comments, I was in the middle of drafting another agonizing article about all the negative crap going on in the world. I immediately stopped, deciding not to “wait until tomorrow,” as JB suggested. I inquired (a special “thank you” to JB) and have permission to reprint his column. Jim Baxley’s words ring true today. (The print was hard to read so I retyped the column.)
“The general state of kindness in the world, sad to say, is not good.
Hostages are still being held in Lebanon; human rights violations continue in every hemisphere; armed conflict, much of it stemming from religious differences, has abated but not disappeared; hate abounds, with extremists at both ends of the ideological spectrum shouting obscenities and insults at those they perceive as their enemies.
Unfortunately, the fact that this is an election year in the United States has not been helpful. George Bush is a “wimp”; Michael Dukakis is a “shrimp”; George Bush hates old people and children; Michael Dukakis sides with criminals against their victims. And on and on.
All of which, I think lends special significance to my National Day of Kindness. It’s tomorrow.
THERE IS NOTHING any of us ordinary folks can do about what’s happening in the Middle East, in South and Central America, or, even, in the U.S. political campaigns. The candidates seem to be more interested in drawing blood than drawing lines of honest disagreement. As someone has said, reasonable people ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Alas, that is too often not the case in these days of contentiousness.
But let us take heart. While we may not be able to still the sounds of rancor which abound at home and abroad, we can, in ways quiet and personal, kindle the embers of kindness in our own lives.
It begins, I suggest at home.
Tell those you love that you love them.
Tell your friends that you treasure their friendship.
Resolve to be more gracious toward those with whom you may have disagreements, personal, political, whatever.
BEYOND THIS, kindness can and should be practiced outside the fold.
Your co-workers undoubtedly would be pleased – maybe even surprised – if you took a moment to say, “Hey, you’re doing a great job!”
That cashier at the supermarket, or the sales clerk in the department store, or the young man or woman at the fast-food counter, would have a better day if someone – you, perhaps – smiled and said “thanks” when service is provided. They get paid, certainly, but a sincere compliment, a word of appreciation, would be a substantial bonus.
If you’ve got a few minutes on your hands, you might even pick up the phone and call to tell your policemen, your firemen, your public works employees, your school administrators and teachers that you are grateful for their efforts. (Don’t use the emergency lines, of course.)
KINDNESS, certainly, can be practiced with deeds as well as words.
Someone you know (an elderly person, perhaps) might need transportation to the grocery store, or enjoy the pleasure of a shopping trip – to a shopping center, downtown, or the mall.
Residents in nursing homes would appreciate a visit, a chance to talk, to share memories, or dreams.
Do you know someone who’s having a “tough time,” who is overwhelmed by the vagaries of life which afflict us all from time to time? Give them a word of encouragement, offer such help as you may be able to give.
The opportunities to practice kindness are infinite. Too often, unfortunately, we fail to recognize them, to seize the moment, as it were, to offer hand and heart.
MY THOUGHT is that kindness is a wholesome virus which, diligently nurtured would spread far beyond the point of beginning.
Those to whom kindness is extended, I think, would extend kindness in turn.
I harbor no illusions that a world wide “epidemic” can be generated. There are some who have hated so long, and hated so fiercely, that they are immune to the virus of kindness.
But I am of the opinion that the overwhelming mass of people in these United States, and throughout the world, are inherently kind. They exhibit aberrant behavior at times, certainly. Circumstances have a way of short-circuiting the currents which power the better nature of men.
Even so, most people want to be kind – to be generous, to be thoughtful, to be caring. It is that trait which holds back hate and fear.
One last thought: When you are kind to others, you are kind to yourself.
Tomorrow is a good day to do that. And today. And every day.”
JB sent along a note about the history of National Day of Kindness. I thought our readers might enjoy his comments:
“As far as I can determine Dad started writing his Sunday column sometime in 1981. He continued it until he retired in 1992. He announced his idea for his National Day of Kindness in June of 1982, therein making October 17th, 1982 the first official celebration of Kindness.
Dad chose October 17th because that was his wedding anniversary. I’m not sure if he was giving himself a reminder to be extra kind on that day and a reminder of what day it was, or maybe he just wanted to honor Mom in a special way, or maybe a combination of both.
…. Remember to spread around those Kind words and actions. I know your Kindness will make the recipients of your actions feel a little better and hopefully put a smile on their face. It will certainly make you feel better. I know it will put a smile on Mom and Dad’s face. Have a blessed day, full of Kindness, every day.” — JB
Sadly, 35 years later, Jim’s comments, both positive and negative, ring even louder today. The parallels are uncanny.
Having traveled much of the world, I too believe most people are loving, concerned about their families and want to be kind. Many driving trips across America have convinced me that the real American values and spirit are very much alive, despite what we see in the media.
Sometimes we need to take a break from all our problems, and remind ourselves what is important and remember to do our part. It doesn’t hurt and generally is very rewarding in the process…. Why not now?
A little help means a lot!
Eight years ago, I vowed to keep our newsletter FREE! I plan to keep my promise.
It’s an expensive, time-consuming hobby, but also a labor of love.
Recently a reader asked why I didn’t charge for our weekly letter. I explained that I want it available for everyone. Some readers may be on limited budgets and may benefit the most from our advice.
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On The Lighter Side
I’ve passed a major milestone over the last few weeks. Four years ago, I was treated for tongue cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. They were confident they would zap the cancer, but warned the treatment would wipe out my salivary glands; swallowing and eating in general would be a challenge for the duration.
I spent a couple months being fed through a stomach tube, and vividly remember the excitement when I actually drank about four ounces of a strawberry milkshake. As soon as I was able, I insisted they take the tube out, committing me to figuring out how to eat again.
I told friends I longed for the day I could enjoy a sandwich, burger or pizza, being cautioned by doctors that it may never happen. Progress was slow, need a lot of liquid to wash things down, and I’ve been embarrassed a few times walking out of a restaurant choking on something as small as a tiny piece of lettuce.
In the last month, things started to improve. This past week I’ve enjoyed a cheese sandwich, downed a small pizza at a local restaurant and most recently a couple very juicy hamburgers. Happy days! I’m probably the slowest diner on the planet, needing 16+ ounces of liquid to wash food down, but damn it tastes good!
Jo and I start driving back to AZ this weekend. The next few weeks are crammed full of doctor visits. I’m scheduled for a PET Scan, which is my cancer report card. I’ve not had one since the radiation on my lung in July, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We hope to be able to fly back to Indiana for Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays.
As I look back over the last few years, I have much to be thankful for….
Quote of the Week…
In keeping with this week’s theme:
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
— Mother Teresa
Friend Phil C. sent along some basic truths we often overlook:
- Once all villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella. THAT’S FAITH
- When you throw babies in the air, they laugh because they know you will catch them. THAT’S TRUST
- Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but we still set alarms to wake up. THAT’S HOPE
- We plan ahead, something weeks and months, in spite of zero knowledge of the future. THAT’S CONFIDENCE
- We see the world suffering, but we still get married and have children. THAT’S LOVE
And my favorite:
- An old man’s shirt read, “I am not 80 years old: I’m sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.” THAT’S ATTITUDE
Until next time…
“Economic independence is the foundation of the only sort of freedom worth a damn.” – H. L. Mencken
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