When I was a little boy in the second grade, we were studying the Pilgrims and were asked to create a simple diorama of what we thought a Pilgrim village might look like.
I raced home that day all excited -- I loved working with construction paper and creating things. I spent several hours cutting and gluing and had what, in my seven-year-old mind, was a pretty good representation of a Pilgrim village. I had cabins, a well, trees, logs, and even a little pond made with blue paper! It was a masterpiece -- at least to me!
Then my father, who was not always the kindest of men, came into the room and asked me what I was doing. I remember enthusiastically telling him I was making a Pilgrim village. His only response--"Well, that looks like a pile of X&Z#!"
I was absolutely crushed! A steam roller couldn't have flattened me any further. And I was angry. In my anger I wadded up the project I'd just spent so many hours on, threw it in the garbage, and ran to my room. There, enveloped in physical and emotional darkness, I cried myself to sleep.
It was years before I ever attempted another diorama. In fact, I never did!
Contrast that experience with one I had as a teenager. I had typed the agenda for a school meeting and had just finished setting copies out on the desks prior to a student council meeting. At that moment one of the most popular girls in school, Mary (name changed), came walking in.
Mary was beautiful and radiant, with a smile that turned the insides of every boy in the school into a swarm of butterflies! She picked up one of the agendas and started reading through it. Then she paused, looked up at me and said, not in an unkind way, "Did you know you misspelled the word miscellaneous?"
I picked up an agenda, and sure enough I had. To say the least, I was totally embarrassed. My response reflects where my self-esteem was at the time. "No, I didn't. Well, I guess you think I'm pretty stupid, huh?"
Mary didn't miss a beat in her reply. "Oh no I don't, I think you're pretty neat!"
I can’t begin to describe in words how I felt in that moment. I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed to hear someone, anyone, point out to me that I had value and that I was “pretty neat!” I turned, quickly left the room, then ran to the bathroom and locked myself in a stall because I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. Her kind words enveloped my soul with light and love and restored hope to my heart in a way I can't express.
To this day, every time I think of that experience, I get choked up and thank God for Mary's kindness. Her simple nine-word sentence left an indelible impression of goodness on my heart that I will never forget! It is that experience that helped me realized that I had worth and I wasn't a pile of you know what, which is what I really felt like my father was saying to me all those years before. It is my experience with Mary, along with several others since, that I draw on to pick me up when, as occasionally still happens, I get down on myself or feel discouraged.
So why am I sharing these stories? I share them just as a little reminder to be careful in what you say to people. It is so easy to say unkind things to each other, things that we may not think are any big deal, but which may be like a sledgehammer to someone who gets a steady dose of "downer fodder" every day.
On the other hand, it is just as easy to say kind things that can part the darkness and let the sunshine pour in on a praise starved soul. In doing so we become builders who strengthen, lift, and encourage those around us and make this world a better place to live.
I'm confident that most people want to be Kindness Givers. They want to say and do kind things, and generally do.
If you don't consider yourself to be one of those people, but you would like to be, or if you do consider yourself a kind person, but you'd like to do better at giving daily intentional kindness, here are four simple, easy-to-implement-habit-building steps that will help you in your efforts.
I invite you to learn those steps and take action. If you would like more guidance for implementing them, feel free to check out my mini-book, The Kindness Givers' Formula - Four Simple Steps for Making a Transformational Difference For Good. In forty-five minutes, you can learn the steps, get practical information for ingraining them in your life and unleashing the power of kindness giving, and read inspiring examples of the formula in action.
Simple, effective, do able.
Enough said. Go unleash kindness! Make a difference! Give kindness today!