I remember the day that I decided what one of the most important things in life to me is, to make sure everyone I surround myself with is happy–that I bring some sense of joy to their day or make them smile.

 

I was thirteen when I discovered that other people’s happiness seemed more of a priority to me than my own. But really my happiness was an immediate result of making someone else smile.  I remember the feeling it gave me to see someone else happy because of something I did; I had impacted them. I didn’t do it because I wanted recognition for my action nor did I do it for myself. I was kind for the pure fact that I liked seeing other people content and joyous.

I think I had this epiphany in the seventh grade. We had a unit in our English class focused primarily on the Holocaust. This was when I discovered Anne Frank and her quote: “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” This sentence resonated with me so drastically that still today I consider it words to live by. My English teacher (who helped me find my likeness of kindness) had us write letters about hate and how toxic it can be to people and society. Shortly thereafter a new club was introduced to Bayfield School District: Friends of Rachel. This club had one central dogma: kindness and the sheer importance of it. I remember the assembly we had where people stood before the entire school and spoke of moments of being bullied, teased, or made to feel less than. It caused me actual pain to hear what my fellow students had gone through. The assembly continued and explained just who this Rachel was. Rachel Scott was the first victim in the Columbine school shooting. After she died her family wanted to spread her powerful belief of the importance of kindness. She once wrote, “I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it wills start a chain reaction of the same.” This spoke volumes to me. In that moment I realized the capacity I had as a human being to make a difference in the lives of others. I had the limitless potential of improving the prosperity of the people around me. I couldn’t believe I had that kind of potential!  It felt like I had the ability to truly change the world. This was so big to me that it became my conviction. It was how I wanted to live the rest of my life–through kindness. From then on, my every action was dictated by my belief that kindness is the language we all speak–it connects us with one another.

We are all that we have. Each one of us has struggles, doubts, and flaws as well as hopes, dreams, and love. Each one of us desires acceptance and appreciation. We face each day among other people who are just as scared and nervous as the rest of us; we aren’t alone. Yes, we are all individual, but we are all also human. We must come together on the basis of that commonality. An important factor of pursuing kindness is to also seek it in others. Recognize it in the compliment from a friend, when someone opens a door for you, or even when a stranger gives you a meaningful smile. Those small actions have power. Kindness is beautiful, and it is important to notice it and pass it on, like Rachel said, a chain reaction. Appreciate kindness from others, even when it is not directed towards you. Life gets people down sometimes and you never know what kind of day someone had. That is why you must practice empathy and help them. Try to understand why someone is acting a certain way, even if that way is hateful or unkind. Usually people who lack benevolence do so because they haven’t seen enough kindness themselves or they have been conditioned to not recognize it or appreciate it. Remind them of their humanity, and you might be surprised what lies under the surface. The best way to deal with people who are spiteful is to kill them with kindness. Trust me, it really catches them off guard. That’s because they will expect you to retaliate with anger, but don’t. You’re better than that. Seeking out kindness can also lead to a discovery of goodness. Everyone has good in them somewhere, it just takes appreciation and understanding to see it sometimes.

I see kindness every day, and I go out of my way to pursue and practice it. I used to watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show all the time; Ellen is one of the biggest advocates for kindness I have ever seen. She values it in others and implicates it to everyone she comes in contact with. She ends each episode of her talk show with the phrase, “Be kind to one another.” What better way to use a celebrity platform than to remind people of the way they are supposed to live among each other.

I also see it more and more in kids’ movies. In Disney’s Cinderella (2015), she says one of my favorite quotes, “Have courage, and be kind.” I think it it such a big deal to have put that in a kids’ movie. Teaching the importance of compassion at a young age will make it an inherent trait in generations to come. Another important part of the movie that the filmmakers added was at the end when Cinderella turns to her evil stepmother and tells her that she forgives her even after all the ill treatment she put her through. Forgiveness is yet another branch of compassion, and is important to remember to put into practice every day, even towards people who are not necessarily deserving of it.

I remember in high school track every year at the state competition there was this one female official who was one of the happiest, upbeat people I have ever seen. She made all of the nervous athletes calm down a bit and smile. Every year I saw this woman. She always had a skip in her step and a smile on her face. She even helped calm me down once before one of my relay races. Well, when senior year came around, I made it a priority to tell her how much I appreciated what she did for everyone. She made people smile, and, in my book, that was a big deal. I wanted to make sure she knew that I noticed it and did not take it for granted. So I wrote her a letter. I explained how much her kindness and sweetness meant to me. After having read it she looked at me and gave me a huge hug telling me how much that meant to her. It was a moment I think I will carry with me for the rest of my life. We must all find those bubbly track officials in our lives and make sure we show them the appreciation they deserve.

Sometimes it takes courage to be kind because often it will be perceived as weakness or passiveness. It is easy to have your kindness taken advantage of. A lot of people have to learn this the hard way. But it should never discourage you from being nice to others.  In fact, if you pursue humanity even when others don’t appreciate it, you may impact them for the better in the long run. One day, they’ll think of you.

In pursuing kindness, it is also important not to forget to be kind to yourself. As for me, I often forget this. I put people ahead of myself so often that I tend to sacrifice my own well being. There is a healthy balance. You must respect others as well as yourself. Allow kindness to teach you about yourself and find your humanity through it. We interact with others but we also have the sanctity of our minds to worry about as well.

In the end we must simply love one another. Appreciate people for their individuality and admire the beauty of their kindness. Don’t forget to cherish those aspects about yourself as well. Learn what is important to you and show compassion and empathy to others. It is how we must live because without kindness, we are lost.

Published by Amy Roach