This world has grown and changed so much, so quickly. The world as it is today would be unrecognizable to a time-traveler from even as recently as 30 years ago. Technology has changed the way we work, the way we play, the way we interact with each other, even the way we think. Instant gratification and a constant flow of information have become the norm and we now carry around more computing power in our pockets than was used to send men to the moon.
What would that time traveler see upon stumbling into our modern-day world?
It would probably look like a bunch of people hunched over small, handheld devices. Friends sitting around a table, each staring at their own device, communicating through taps of their thumbs rather than with their voices and their facial expressions.
It would look like neighbors who don’t know each other anymore, as each hurries off to work and school and activities to fill every waking moment of every day.
It would look like closets and houses and garages full of “stuff” that sits, untouched, until it is time to make room for the next new thing. Things that brought joy in the moment of purchase but that don’t have meaning once they have been acquired.
It would likely look like a lot of people in the same place physically, but disconnected from each other in every way that matters.
Somewhere along the way, something was lost.
And that thing was kindness.
Kindness is commonly defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate, all qualities that are generally viewed as positive. But from there, the definition is less static, and can also take on different connotations. Kindness is often associated with caring, with affection, with warmth and with care. But it has also, in many places, been associated with naivete and weakness. As if concern for another means taking one’s eyes off of the prize of today’s modern world.
What has been forgotten is that kindness is actually inherent in our nature as humans - after all, it is referred to as humankind!
So today, on World Kindness Day, let’s reframe the idea of kindness as a weakness and recognize that having a soft heart is a source of strength.
Humans are, by nature, social creatures. We were not designed to be silos or to lead solitary lives. Caring, compassion and concern for our fellow humans is a necessary survival skill. But to cultivate this skill, to strengthen our kindness muscle, it involves opening our eyes. Looking up from the screen, and taking a good, hard look at the world around us. Notice what people need. Notice when someone is suffering. Notice the struggles of our fellow humans.
Kindness is instinctive, but oftentimes it is conditioned out of us by a world that values accomplishment over connection, competition over collaboration. But what is the value of accomplishment at the expense of authenticity? How meaningful is a victory in a competition in which no one wanted to participate in the first place?
Take a moment today to breathe. Take a moment today to feel. And take a moment to reconnect with that piece of you that is still there, that spark that shines in the quiet moments.
It’s World Kindness day. As the saying goes, in a world where you can be anything, be KIND.