The subject of kindness has been tugging at my heartstrings for a number of years, but it has tugged the hardest most recently when my husband and I walked by an elementary school in our neighborhood and found laminated pink paper T-shirts zip-tied to the fence with various handwritten slogans, many of which were on the subject of kindness.
Out of all the T-shirts, my favourite one said: “Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.” These encouraging words written by children prompted me to think about how kindness is a fruit of the spirit that I feel has been largely missing from many people’s daily lives for quite some time. Next to love, I believe that kindness is one of the keys to making the world a better place (although, one could argue that kindness is a by-product of love, and that love is the ultimate key to unlocking the purpose of life here on earth, which is a topic I will explore in another post).
I have worked in the customer service industry in various roles over the course of fifteen years and, during this timeframe, I have observed and experienced kind and unkind acts by both customer service personnel and customers alike. I started working in the industry when the old adage “the customer is always right” was still a common belief. I tried following this ideal in my own career but I soon realized that some customers often misused the saying to verbally abuse employees under the guise of the customer always being right.
Later on in my career, I experienced a new level of unkindness from colleagues who were in a higher position than me and who, in their minds, were better than me and made sure I knew that. Being bullied and mistreated by colleagues was a new experience for me. While I had experienced bullying in school, I hadn’t encountered it early on in my career. Up until then, I had only received praise from colleagues who appreciated my hard work and respected me for it. My most recent workplace, however, was a dog-eat-dog kind of world and, because I came from a small town environment, it shocked me to work with a team that stepped all over each other to climb the corporate ladder instead of stepping alongside each other and working together to build a symbiotic team space. Sadly, I wasn’t designed for this kind of ruthless environment and decided to leave my job and seek more purposeful employment elsewhere.
A few months ago, I was standing in line at McDonald’s waiting for my food. A young man in his twenties stood in front of me and I watched as an older gentleman approached him and started talking to him about something trivial (unfortunately, the topic of conversation escapes me). I could tell by the way the older gentleman was speaking that he was mentally-challenged, but the young man didn’t get annoyed like most people would and he even engaged in the conversation before wishing the older man a great day. After the older man left, the young man turned to me and explained that one day he had witnessed some teenage boys throwing snowballs at the older gentleman and making fun of him, so he grabbed the boys, dunked their faces in the snow, and asked them if they liked it before sending them on their way with an explicit warning to not treat other people that way. He explained to me that it wasn’t right for those boys to be so cruel and disrespectful and he felt compelled to put a stop to it. Ever since then, the older gentleman always came to talk to the young man because of his kindness.
It was inspiring to hear about such an amazing act of kindness, especially in a day and age when most people would simply walk by because they don’t want to get involved. Sometimes I’m guilty of being that kind of person because I’m too busy to stop and show kindness to someone in need. I know from experience that when someone shows me a random act of kindness (such as giving up their seat for me on the bus or holding open a door for me), I’m surprised and pleased and it makes me feel blessed, but then I forget to pass on the blessing to someone else.
Nineteen years ago, a film called Pay It Forward based on a novel of the same name by author Catherine Ryan Hyden was released in theatres and it struck a chord with me. The film told the story about a goodwill movement called “pay it forward” that had been started by a twelve-year-old boy for a school social studies project to make the world a better place. I was sixteen when I watched this film in my Modern Life Studies class and I remember being so impacted by the idea of “paying it forward” that I wanted to start my own movement. So I started doing random acts of kindness for people in my life and recording it in a journal; however, I never found out if these people ever “paid it forward” to others and it didn’t take long before my excitement fizzled out.
I learned recently that seven years after the release of the film, a woman in Australia named Blake Beattie founded International Pay It Forward Day (PIFD) on April 28th with the purpose to create a ripple effect of kindness across the world. To date, over eighty countries are participating in PIFD to help make the world a better place. It encourages me to know that kindness projects are still happening across the world today. For more information on PIFD, please visit the website here: http://payitforwardday.com/. Otherwise, mark your calendars to participate each year and spread kindness across the world.
Spreading kindness can be as simple as writing a kind note to someone who is feeling down or performing a kind deed for someone who needs help. And, like the picture shows above, we might find that kindness, like a boomerang, returns back to us when we least expect it. We might also even find that kindness is contagious and cannot (and should not) be quarantined but should be spread everywhere. In the words of a child who once wrote on a laminated pink paper T-shirt zip-tied to a school fence: “Kindness is free so sprinkle it everywhere.”
You are not alone.
You. Are. Loved.
I hope you find love, hope and peace in these words.