"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." -Mark Twain
Recently, I watched one of the Sunday news morning shows which reported on a story about an act of kindness which I think many of us would have never thought of doing. The story was about a Starbucks barista who took it upon herself to learn American Sign Language. This might seem like it’s not that special an act of kindness or that important until you understand why she did it. You see, there was a regular customer who came in for coffee every day that is deaf. Each time he came in to order it was an ordeal and most times a hassle. Then one morning he came in and the barista gave him a note that said “I am learning ASL – American Sign Language so I can help you better.” It not only helped them both, it changed the customer’s life. During the story, he said through an interpreter that no one had ever done something so kind for him, let alone someone working at a business. He said she made him feel like all the rest of the customers, which made him feel like he fit in. This simple act of kindness meant a great deal to him.
After watching the story, it got me to thinking about what the word kindness means. What does it mean to be kinds in a world that seems to have lost its kindness? The Australian Kindness Movement describes kindness as “a spontaneous act or gesture of goodwill towards someone or something, our fellow humans, the animal kingdom, and the kingdom of nature.” When you carry out an act of kindness it is a message from one heart to another. It’s an act of love where you are making an unspoken “I CARE” statement. Just like in the Starbucks barista story – what made the story so special was the actions by the barista was truly an unspoken statement of “I CARE”.
The thing is, many of us don’t realize that we are giving and receiving many acts of kindness every day. When we give a smile, greet people, help others whether they are friends or not are all acts of kindness. An act of kindness can be as simple as a smile when someone needs to see one or a compliment when one is needed or a positive outlook when the going is tough or by doing something for someone just like the Starbucks barista did.
What if we all decided to do a daily act of kindness, what a difference we all could make. Our daily acts of kindness can change society; we could change the world. Our acts of kindness could stop the downward spiral of our society that is fueled by selfishness, materialism and greed. Doing daily acts of kindness can enhance the feelings of belonging by those in the community who feel like they don’t belong. Daily acts of kindness can bring about a greater sense of meaning and purpose to everyone not just the select few.
In its simplest form, kindness means you are nice and considerate to others. That you don’t need to have a reason for being kind that it’s just something you do simply because it’s the right way to treat others. When I think back on times when I thought I was being kind and doing what was good or right I ask myself, “Good or Right by WHOM?” By me, by others, by society? I believe kindness starts at home. It’s all about being true to your own feelings and values and expressing those feelings with other people. If you are not acting in a way that is kind to yourself, how will you be able to act kind towards others?
Lending someone money you know will be used to support their drug problem, alcohol problem or to rack up more debt is not kindness. Telling them you’re not going to lend them the money but will do everything reasonable to support them on their journey is. Kindness isn’t about heaping holier-than-thou judgement on someone in whatever their situation. Kindness is finding the compassion and understanding for where they’re at in their life while maintaining your own boundaries and respecting your own needs. Kindness is accepting where others are and not trying to change them to be more like what you think they should be.
Kindness can be difficult. It can mean watching people slide into a dark place and then face the consequences of their actions. True kindness can be tough and there will be times where it will leave us feeling less kind. What acts of kindness have you done lately? If you haven’t, why haven’t you? How important is being kind to you? All important questions to consider.
Mark twain said “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Kindness is the universal language that is understood beyond boundaries. We all understand and can speak this language. Who have you helped make feel better, what have you done to make a more positive place, when was the last time you used the universal language of kindness?