Last year, I adopted the one-word approach to New Year’s resolutions. Instead of compiling a list of things to achieve, the idea is to choose one word to inspire your actions all year long. Proponents say this focus helps inform your goals and provides clarity about how you want to live your life.
My word last year was “mindful.” I have to admit that my success at integrating greater mindfulness into my life was modest, at best. Mostly, I became more aware of how mindful I was not being at any given moment. Which, when you think about it, is a form of mindfulness, right? So maybe I was more successful than I thought.
Anyway, I want a new word for 2017, and I’ve chosen “kindness.” Because there’s just too damn much meanness, incivility and hate being bandied about, especially during and after the sh*t show that was the U.S. presidential election.
I am sickened when I read reports of the increase in hate crimes perpetrated by deplorables who apparently feel emboldened by the PEOTUS’s own antics, and the ugliness spewed by trolls on the internet.
Here in Maine, we have a governor who called a state legislator a c*cksucker in an allegedly drunken phone rant, and told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” Plus, more than 10% of Maine’s teachers and child care providers have expelled students as young as 3 years old because of behaviors such as hitting, pushing and biting, according to a new survey from the Maine Children’s Growth Council—which tells a sad tale of what these kids are seeing at home.
My friends have had encounters with aggressive drivers who flip them the bird, fellow shoppers who get all pissy when asked to take their rightful place at the end of the checkout line, or travelers who refuse to move their luggage even though it’s blocking an airport restaurant aisle.
It’s hard to not be triggered by this type of behavior and respond with anger or a snarky putdown. But what does this really achieve—except a likely escalation of hostilities and perpetuation of an unkind world?
So I’m going to try my damnedest in 2017 to channel Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” mantra. And to not just be reactive but proactive when it comes to sowing seeds of kindness.
Like my friend who, when she spotted a flagman without gloves directing traffic during road construction on her street—on a cold Maine winter’s day—went home, grabbed a pair of her husband’s gloves, and brought them to the worker.
So much of being kind simply has to do with not looking away—instead, engaging with people and acknowledging their presence, making a human gesture that’s just thoughtful and caring, having empathy. Like buying a meal for a homeless person instead of averting my eyes and walking past him or her. Or having a conversation with the elderly person in the seat next to me in the doctor’s waiting room. Reaching out in some way to help make someone else’s life easier, better or less lonely, to connect, instead of looking down at my phone.
And then there are those little random acts of kindness that might bring a smile to someone’s face, like paying the toll for the car behind me now and again, or for the order of the person behind me in line at the coffee shop.
And acting on the impulse to give when I hear of someone who needs help, instead of just thinking about it. Whether it’s delivering soup to a sick friend, donating clothing or household goods to someone who’s been burned out of their home, or sending a gift card or a check to a good cause—even the smallest contribution of time, money or effort can make a difference.
A few weeks ago, a baby boomer friend had a tiny heart tattooed on the inside of her forearm. She decided this was the tangible assist she needed to help redirect her anger and frustration amid all the post-election mishegas—kind of a variation on worry beads. So now, when she feels her bile rise, she touches her tattoo and reminds herself that “love trumps hate.”
Similarly, I want to be mindful of being kind in the year ahead (without puncturing and inking my skin). To help make the world—at least my infinitesimal portion of it—a kinder, gentler place by, say, not reflexively calling someone an a**hole when they cut me off in traffic (even if they are). Or not assuming nefarious motives when someone else’s bad attitude could simply be because they’re having a crappy day. Or not snapping at Hubs for whatever reason spouses snap at each other.
And who knows—maybe there’s a butterfly effect, and my small effort could have a bigger impact. Perhaps someone I’m nice to pays it forward, and so does the recipient of their niceness, and so on. Regardless, what’s there to lose by simply being a nicer person?
Kindness costs nothing,
while meanness extracts a toll.
Let’s be nice, shall we?
There is one caveat, though. I reserve the right to use snark and sarcasm here in my blog, particularly to call out stupidity, meanness or asshattery. If it’s my truth, I’m going to speak it. But I’ll do it in the kindest way possible (wink, wink).
What do you think? Do you believe the world needs more kindness? Got suggestions for how to make it happen? Have you got a one-word theme for 2017? Please share…