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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round

Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round

In a high school class in Queens, students were asked to write an essay on how they thought they’d be remembered if, at that very moment, time simply stopped.

While the theme appeared obvious (though it really wasn’t), most believed they’d be remembered for achievements in sports, good grades, special talents, favorite music, favorite foods, etc. When the exercise was over, in many cases expressing surprise and regret, the students realized that what they thought defined them didn’t include enough about patience, helping others, compassion for individuals in and especially outside of familiar circles, and kindness in general. And they didn’t want to be remembered for anything less.

On World Kindness Day, November 13th, looking beyond ourselves–beyond the constraints of race, religion, and borders–may be a tall order but not entirely out of hand. Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, which works to inspire and connect nations, World Kindness Day’s mission is to trumpet and manifest kindness through a profusion of generous acts, the world over, big and small. While the concept may seem frivolous to some, the fact is kindness towards another lifts two people up: the recipient and you. Scientific studies have shown that a caring and compassionate gesture also manifests itself in the giver physically, releasing endorphins in the brain the way exercise, chocolate, and being in love do. And if you make a practice of extending yourself, in addition to making a difference in others’ lives, the results can impact your overall health in terms of a reduction in stress, strengthening the immune system, a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes, and more. In short, if you’re looking for the downside of compassionate connection, there isn’t one.

So while you may not be in a position to board a plane on a diplomatic mission for the Middle East or immunize babies in Nigeria, what can you do locally to demonstrate kindness on World Kindness Day?

For starters, look around. If something needs to be done for another, do it. Empty a waste basket; water a plant; wash the dishes in the sink at work or your mother’s windows. If a shopping cart has rolled to the back of a car–something the driver may not see when backing out–stop and move it away, and preferably back inside. If someone you know normally takes three buses to get home and you have a car, offer a ride–as often as possible.

Next, look up–in a positive sense. If someone you know, or maybe you don’t know but have heard about, is alone, perhaps without resources and facing a seemingly insurmountable task, dive in to help and be optimistic about it, asking for additional assistance from others if necessary until the job gets done.

Also, look down. While the goal of World Kindness Day is to connect and inspire nations, exactly who lives in your community? Or maybe in the next town? Is there an international population? If you’re not readily familiar with issues of local or regional diversity, bury your head in the newspaper for a few days and/or search the archives online. Who needs your help? What issues define people who may not have been born there the way you were? How can your talents, abilities, and experience make a difference in their lives on World Kindness Day?

Finally, look away–and not in the sense that you turn a blind eye to someone or something that needs you. Look into the future and try to imagine how what you do for someone today can impact them, you, and others for days, weeks, months, even years to come. While this may seem a grandiose concept to some, the fact is extending yourself often inspires the recipient to, as the movie of the same name says, “pay it forward,” with the end result unimaginable–possibly because the gesture never ends.

While these ideas may not be exactly new or novel, for some of us taking action and executing them is. World Kindness Day inspires and connects only if we do, so, like the students in Queens, how would you like to be remembered?

1 comment

1 Christine Wolf { 11.13.13 at 9:17 am }

Great article. I am going to post it on Facebook. My church community has started a Kindness Revolution. Though I am not actively involved in all the do I have been a recipient of many kindnesses due to a physical problem that has kept me home bound. I have found it hard to accept kindness but I am learning. We all must not only give kindness we need to accept it as well. The old adage says it well, “it is easier to give than receive”. Let us also learn how to receive Kindness on the World Day of Kindness.

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