Speaking kindly to everyone


I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that sometimes there is a kind of theme to what’s happening to you and around you. Situations keep popping up that seem designed to drive home a specific point or to make you take special notice of what’s happening in your life or just to open your eyes. It might be a gentle nudge, but sometimes it feels more like a wake-up slap across the side of the head just to get your attention.

Lately it seems to me that I’ve been hearing a lot about kindness, especially how we need more of it in our world right now. And I’ve heard plenty of positive examples of kindness around us.

The rains of last month showed us at our best when there were flooded basements full of waterlogged furniture and possessions. Often, neighbors and strangers showed up to help others in trouble. Of course, it is certainly not easy duty carrying heavy, wet, often-smelly goods out of a basement when it’s 90+ degrees outside.

And yet, as author Neil Strait said, “kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.”

But showing kindness–which is one of the fruits of the spirit–doesn’t have to be a major gesture like helping to clean up flood damage. I think it’s kind when a stranger holds a door open and lets me go first when we are both entering a store or restaurant. This evening while I was in town riding my bike, a man in his yard a half-block away waved at me as I pedaled around his corner. That was a kind, but simple, gesture.

You know, it could be that it’s as simple as having good manners, this being kind stuff. Perhaps our moms were right; mine often advised me to “just be nice.”

“Seven Keys to Healthy Aging” was the title of a magazine piece I recently found again after I had tucked away in a file. This article reported research shows that one of the best things one can do to ensure a long, happy life is to be thoughtful (nice). The people who behave this way thrive, while those who don’t are more likely to grow up and have poor marriages, smoke, drink, be relatively unsuccessful at work, and die at younger ages.

So there is a very real payoff to being kind to others. Ponder this thought (and it is not original to me): If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.