I’ve heard mixed emotions on the #BeKind campaign courageously working its way through the Omaha metropolitan area. Most say it’s wonderful. Others have thought a bit more deeply about the topic, “isn’t it sad that as a community we have to remind ourselves to ‘be kind’? Shouldn’t that, with everything else we have going on, at least come easily?” Of course, we all know and understand the answer to this question. It’s rhetorical, right?
Since first grade started for my daughter this year, I’ve been regularly exposed to the #BeKind movement. It’s on teacher’s shirts and children’s folders. But, interestingly enough, I’ve also noticed a lot of unkind behaviors lately – from adults. The unkind situations I’ve encountered – or have seen from afar – were orchestrated by decent and respectable parents. This brings me back to my first question: how can we teach our children to #BeKind when we are not doing it ourselves?
What does it mean to #BeKind to someone?
We all know that being perfect all of the time is impossible. If people were always happy and cheerful, we might think something was physically (or mentally) wrong with them. We would begin to doubt their authenticity. But we can be nice, respectful and kind, especially when the opportunity is smacking us across the face.
For example, a family is approaching the entrance to a restaurant and instead of rushing to get inside first, you hold the door open and allow them to go first. You might also give a warm “Good Morning!” That’s an example of being kind.
Do you need an example of being unkind?
The truth is that most of us do not realize that we are not being kind to someone. I call this accidental unkindness.
Let me explain…
I’m guilty of saying things one way and coming off another. My intentions are 98% good, but I don’t always communicate in a way that tells others I’m not judging their actions. I might disagree about something, like smoking cigarettes. I’m just not a fan. I’ll tell most people it’s pretty gross, in my opinion, but that in no way means I dislike you as a person for doing it. So when I curl up my nose and cringe when I see you smoking, I might come off like I don’t care for you at all. I like you just fine! I’m just not a fan of smoking cigarettes. Does that make sense? That’s, in my definition, accidental unkindness – when you don’t actually realize you’re being unkind.
And then there’s the opposite. Blunt unkindness that anyone watching would agree that, crap, you totally suck at being a good person today.
Let me give you an example…
You see someone you know sitting alone at a networking event that you actually invited them to. You’re with other friends that you’ve known for years. This person is not a friend exactly, but not an enemy. “Dale” continues to sit alone. He even comes to your table to say hello, cracking a few jokes here and there, but you never make an attempt to invite Dale to your table or even ask how his day is going. You just let him sit alone, even during lunch. You and your friends walk past Dale several times. Your friends know Dale also. No attempt is made to include Dale. Not even an explanation as to why you are pretty much ignoring him. Does Dale smell? Does Dale appear like he’s having the time of his life sitting alone? Do you dislike Dale for being an outsider? I guess he’ll never know.
That’s the type of unkindness that makes me want to stand up and shout, “THIS IS NOT HIGH SCHOOL, PEOPLE!” What if Dale was your child and this was happening to him at school every day?
This weekend I’ve been hyper-aware of kindness toward others. I took my daughter shopping and said good morning to strangers when they smiled our way. I noticed a woman’s cute shirt that said kindness looks amazing on you. I even overheard someone buying a Starbucks for the next person in line. All this was observed while my 6-year-old watched and participated. I want her to understand kindness, as well.
How can you #BeKind?
Look around you. I think kindness starts with being aware. We get so busy with our own lives that we don’t take the time to think about others. We’re in a hurry to get home, so we speed up instead of letting someone in our lane on the interstate. You ding the car next to you without even realizing what you’ve just done; you’re in a hurry to get to an appointment you’re late for! (I am guilty of this.)
Be positive. Try to see the positive side of the situation. Ok, so you don’t want to change up your work schedule and it makes you mad that you now have more work to do and you’re “NOT VOLUNTEERING TO HELP WITH THAT!” I get it. But there’s a time and a place to vent. Stay positive until you understand the situation fully and it’s appropriate to speak up. Don’t say no and have a negative attitude toward someone before you even know all of the details.
Include people. I want more than anything else for my children to be includers. I was the geeky kid in elementary school. My family didn’t have money and sometimes I looked like a homeless kid. I was picked last for sports and my big sister was my only friend on the playground. It still hurts my heart. So I include people as much as I can. That’s important to me. Being kind starts with including people, when appropriate, even when they’re not going to be your best friend forever.
I know all of this is easier said than done. As I mentioned before, we are not perfect. I’ve been unkind, negative and rude millions of times. We all have. But, from here on out, I will be more aware of how kind I am to people. I’m going to step it up a notch. I’m going to practice what I preach. Will you join me?
A personal shout out to my mother-in-law for being the kindest person I’ve ever met. Anyone who knows her will agree. Thank you for your constant example of how to be kind to everyone, no matter who they are. We are blessed to have you in our lives.
This post was written while drinking a ton of coffee from a Cubs mug I bought for my husband but claimed as my own. He’s a huge Cubs fan (even before 2016). I am a huge coffee fan.