This is the final entry in a series of posts that come from the gift of a magnetic bumper sticker given to me at a North Carolina retreat for older adults. The message was simple and compelling: BE SILLY. BE HONEST. BE KIND. The surprising author of this surprising quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson. Yep, that one….
Does the world around you feel kind? Maybe the Pollyanna part of me is working here, but I’m finding basic human kindness in so many places that it’s starting to feel like a trend. Which is why I’m asking you: Are you the recipient (or the provider) of helpful or generous acts—whatever their size—that seem to occur over and over again? If so, have you figured out what’s going on these days?
Sociologists of old age tell us that older adults tend to regard the world around them more positively, so perhaps we’re just now noticing what’s always been true. (And the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas might accentuate the garden-variety thoughtfulness that’s a normal part of life.) It seems to me that every day some (small) kindness pops up in my line of sight. A grocery store clerk gets thanked by most customers in line. Politeness blends with smiles in my doctor’s office. The conversations around me seem like anger or stress have been purposely washed out of them. (My spiffy new hearing aids really DO improve my powers of observation!)
Another possibility: Perhaps many of us—perhaps especially older adults—have had it with the rancor and uncivility that we’ve seen emanating from national leaders. We’re fed up with partisan finger-pointing, acidic tweeting and character assassination. Over and over again, we’ve seen how consideration of others’ humanity have been shoved aside during acts of mass violence. Maybe we’re done with all of this—we weren’t raised to be mean and nasty to others—so we’re doing what we can to reverse callous and harsh behaviors. Not pointing our fingers at others for their malice or heartlessness, but instead recommitting ourselves to being kind. However that happens—perhaps most in small and unnoticeable ways—we can be examples of a better way to treat others. With kindness!
For those of us who follow Christ, and who know God’s grace in our lives, kindness just seems right. We have been loved for no other reason than that God is love, and it seems natural to pass on what we’ve received. Not to pay God back—that’s not possible—but to make sure that God’s love—really obvious in how Jesus lived and taught—doesn’t get lost or overlooked.
Is this a special part of growing older? It seems so. Maybe we experience less stress—some studies indicate that’s true. Or maybe we’ve matured to the point where we see into others’ spirits more wisely, and with more empathy. Perhaps it’s true that at this time in our lives we’re the beneficiaries of so much kindness that it can feel overwhelming. Or even that we’re aware of the great need for kindness, and there are now fewer years when we can make compassion a part of others’ lives–time may be short, so we get to work showing kindness.
Whether or not I’m seeing a trend in society, it’s a blessing to experience the consideration of others, and to share that godsend with as many people as possible. One thing for sure: The more that kindness gets out there into the bloodstream of society, the more it seems to spread. Kindness has many children! (And grand-children and great-grand-children?)
So you tell me: Is kindness growing in our world?
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