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Kindness Should Be Effortless


Today I’m going to lighten up the mood a bit. When I decided to write a blog about kindness I found myself drawing a blank. Kindness for me isn’t instinctive. I know, that sounds horrible, but let me explain.

Kindness Takes Thought

For me kindness takes thought. I’m an only child and for many that means I’m selfish. But to me that means I just have to learn how to live in a world where others aren’t so focused on me. I’ve accepted the blessings that have come with being an only child. They are countless: a mother that loved me unconditionally, a father that could always provide for me, new clothes every Christmas, never having to use, wear or ride hand-me-downs. A loving, if not intense childhood environment surrounded by the nurturing provided to the youngest child with the high expectations heaped onto an older child. So growing up where my parents placed my needs first I understandably had some adjustment to do when I started going to school and found out other people lived in my world. I had to think about others and that meant how to treat them. So my acts of kindness towards others took some thought. I really had to consciously plan to be kind to others. I don’t know why. I wasn’t some crazed child suffering from detachment syndrome or something. I didn’t kill animals in the back yard or draw cartoons filled with death. I was, in fact, just the opposite. A child who, my mom says, would smile or talk to to a lamppost because it was there.

Is Kindness Intrinsic?

What Could Be More Kind than These Smiles I Photographed in Nigeria?

I often wondered if kindness was intrinsic. My mother sure made it a natural instinct for me. She drilled it into me as a child, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” “Think before you speak.” “Honey attracts more bees than vinegar.” She constantly worked on me, my sometimes acid tongue, my seemingly purposeful ability to find a person’s weakness and, well, dwell on it. I often wonder, in the age of self-preservation, a world informed by the pursuit of the individual and showered with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, is kindness an intrinsic quality of an individual. Does it interfere with our notion of me and mine first. It takes an awful lot of deliberation, at least for me, to put another’s well being ahead of mine. (An effort I’m finding all the more herculean  after getting married for the first time at age 37 🙂 ).

Kindness Takes Effort

In an effort to spread kindness around I urge you all to try a little harder. For me it’s tough so I know what it means to overcome my natural inclination to look out for myself first. I will make an extraordinary effort to smile, to speak before spoken to and to genuinely listen to others who are in need. I know that I am an altruistic person, if not always kind. I’ve spent the last decade of my life adding voice to the voice by chronically the thoughts, struggles and triumphs of people living under extreme conditions of poverty, violence and terrorism. I have given up many dreams – namely of being rich – to tell what to me are often ignored stories around the globe. So there has to be kindness there. Right? Go the extra mile today – be kind first, ask questions later.
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