Earlier this month, an e-mail landed in my inbox with the subject line “Your Kindness Toolkit for the New Year”* and, without even opening the message, the cogs in my wee brain started whirring.
Then, on Thursday morning, I was outdoors, inadequately dressed for the temperature (Sandy!) so I decided to take a spin through the drive-thru to pick up a hot drink. When I arrived at the first window I was told that the chap in front of me had paid my bill. Oh, sweet, a random kindness. How utterly lovely! Then, when I pulled up to the second window I was told that my good samaritan had added a cookie to my order. Squee! Totally made my
day, week, month! A good deed that, to him might have been a small matter, had a huge impact on me.
Assemblies of tools are collected by craftspeople, artists, handypeople and tradespeople everywhere. I have two such kits myself; my needle arts supplies and my camera gear. All physical, tactile implements. All gathered gradually, over many years, as our savings permitted. All gradually coalescing into practical, useful and handy stockpiles of gadgets, gizmos and devices. All well-used in my designing, creating, fabricating and repairing processes. But a kindness tool kit required some thought…
“Be kind to one another.”**
The Cambridge Dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people. A simple enough idea, but one that is sometimes hard to practice. No, that’s not really true – it is easy to be kind. The difficult bit (for me, at least) is keeping kindness front of mind. Even with the very best of intentions, in the busyness of our daily lives, where, how and with who to begin are just a few possible stumbling blocks. Perhaps a kindness tool kit is actually a personal vision statement; a resolution to offer friendship, attentiveness, gentleness, care and grace – the gift of personal connection – whenever, wherever it is needed.
Personally I know that I need to focus outwards much more often, to open my eyes to the need, suffering, sadness and desperation of others. Kindness means translating those observations into an active response and, frankly, that’s where I often fail.
Indeed, noticing where assistance is needed and giving that help without being asked might be our most generous offering of kindness. Helping an elderly neighbour, or over-tired young parents, or a family struggling with a long illness, or a friend recovering from surgery or injury with good deeds such as:
- yard work or snow shovelling; and
- food – providing a hot, nutritious, ready-to-eat meal; and
- doing laundry (including changing the bedding); and
- driving to medical appointments; and
- babysitting; and
- walking a dog
Each of these tasks go a long way towards easing a heavy burden; I know this first-hand having experienced such generosity on many an occasion.
Empathy is an extraordinarily powerful tool to add to our kit. Our ability to listen to shared feelings and then nurture and protect those feelings is kindness personified. We all know that a smile and kind word go a long way to easing someone’s burden, so too does attentiveness.
Kindness is not just for the bad times. Celebrating the successes of those we love is an important kindness tool. Also important is telling the people we love how special they are to us; all too often those sentiments are reserved for funerals which is way, way too late! Sincere compliments are long-remembered and treasured. These very personal behaviours are all splendid kindness tools.
So, my kindness tool kit, then… I thought I’d begin by adding ten tools to my kit and I’m ashamed to report that I struggled. Mightily. My kit is clearly a work in progress but this is the raw material with which I’m hoping to start my toolbox:
- First and foremost, live by the golden rule.
- Make eye-contact and smile more. Always remember Nana’s advice: Pretty manners never go out of style.
- Neither listen to nor repeat gossip. Have nothing to do with those who do.
- Be more courteous; yield right of way more as a driver, hold doors open, generally be more aware of what is happening around me.
- Complain less. Aim for never. Rather than issuing letters of complaint, send commendations for good service.
- Donate more – money, goods and time.
- Be quicker to forgive.
- Be a mentor again.
- Reach out to relatives and friends I’ve not seen in ages – perhaps with a phone call or hand-written note.
- Whenever the situation arises, be willing to give the other person the benefit of the doubt
Though of the cerebral rather than the tactual variety, the ideas, plans, skills, and intentions in a kindness kit are nonetheless a veritable collection of tools. What’s in your kindness tool kit?
Right now, at this very moment in time, our poor old world desperately needs more kindness, and it’s contagious – spread some around and watch it grow!
’Til next time, y’all…
*Lion’s Roar Magazine