On a recent call with a friend, she told me she had passed a sign in front of a local high school that said, “Make Kindness Normal.” She found herself crying at the poignancy of the statement. We wondered, why isn’t kindness normal? Why aren’t rudeness and meanness outliers?
Some speculate that our use of social media may be partly to blame. Without having to confront someone face to face, it’s easy to “otherize” people and engage our baser instincts. So-called trolls can post incendiary comments and don’t have to witness the damage they do.
Yet, when a video or story of kindness is posted on social media, we share it like we’re starving for the generosity of spirit we witness. In my own life, it makes my day when a young man at a local shipping and coffee place regularly smiles and shouts “hello” to welcome me, or offers a jubilant “Have a good day” when I reach for the door as I leave. I take a moment in silence to acknowledge a complimentary email from a colleague. And I am touched when a young woman who checks me in at the gym, asks about my weekend.
We need kindness, as much as ever. On the day after the election, I woke up yearning to experience kindness, to believe we still cared about one another. I headed to a local coffee house soon after it opened. As I paid for my order, I passed the barista some additional money and asked her to pay it forward. While standing at the end of the bar waiting for my drink, the next woman in line joined me. She started to cry as she thanked me, saying how upset she was feeling. I reached out to her as the barista finished my drink and looked on. The three of us stood in the otherwise empty café sharing a silent moment of connection.
We know kindness is good for us. It can reduce pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure! But more than that, it feels good for both the giver and receiver. It connects us to one another. Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) and other organizations have been on the job for years, giving us great reasons and opportunities to be kind, including Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 11 - 17.
RAK Week is a great time to step up our practice of kindness. It can be a balm to the raw uncertainty many of us feel. The kind folks behind Random Acts of Kindness remind us, “Kindness starts with one.” Perhaps making kindness normal is simply in the practicing, witnessing, and appreciating it every day.
Roselle Kovitz, a member of Fetzer’s social media team, is a writer and communication consultant who lives in Seattle.