What are some ways here in the New Year that people can show a simple act of kindness to others? In this “unkind” time in which we’re living, this might be a new year’s resolution to try.
For instance, do we always remember to say the kind thing we’re thinking? Sometimes, we wonder why we didn’t express to a spouse, child, family member, friend or stranger some kind words we were thinking — “You look wonderful today,” “Where do you get your hair cut?” “You have a great smile,” “I love your outfit,” “You tell the best stories,” “You are a wonderful cook,” “You’re so friendly to others,” and so forth.
If we don’t say it in words, we could write a note to someone. There have been a few people over the years that send me a written note from time to time, and I’m always delighted and touched to receive their kind words.
It’s truly a gift, because it’s such a rare thing for someone to take the time to actually write and send a note these days. Although emails and text messages are always appreciated, the written word with a stamp on the envelope continues to be more personal.
Thank-you notes in particular are a means of giving a simple kindness. A few years ago, a friend gave me a book titled “365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life,” by John Kralik. One day, at a very low point in his life, the author wrote a thank-you note. The impact of that simple act struck a chord with him, and he wrote one the next day, and the next. For 365 days, he found people and things he was thankful for and expressed his feelings in written notes to others.
Knowing how thoughtful the written note is, I wondered if I could accomplish what Kralik had done. My friend and I decided to try it, and so on Jan. 1 that year, we each began sending a thank-you note to someone for something each day. It was amazing. The amazing part wasn’t finding reasons to send such notes but that we were the biggest beneficiaries. The time and small effort it took to connect with so many wonderful people that year was a game changer in our lives.
We were rewarded in so many ways because we reached out to others. Here are a few examples of our recipients: attentive store clerks, helpful colleagues, teachers, students, doctors, nurses, coaches, receptionists, Verizon employees, dog walkers, cat sitters, gas-station employees, computer techs, friends for being friends, manicurists, waiters, garbage collectors, neighbors for being neighbors, hairstylists, conference speakers, baristas, ushers and more. Our thanks were genuine, and it turned out we were giving ourselves a small gift each day. As the year passed, it was easier to recognize and be sensitive to others’ kind acts and words, and it felt good to tell them how we felt.
Actually, living a life that exemplifies kindness is in another category all its own. Remaining open-minded and supporting all people is one thing, but actually living out those beliefs in our daily life is another.
I am fortunate to know such a remarkable family. They are truly the All-American family, and they give the gift of love and kindness every day to those around them. Their family looks like this: Parents divorced and remarried, with all parties involved remaining friends and treating each other with respect and kindness. All children of couples involved are loved and cherished by every one of their parents and stepparents.
This All-American family consists of different religions, races, gender identities, heterosexual and same-sex marriages, grandchildren and step-grandchildren, step-grandparents and far-reaching extended family members. It’s a joy to know them as they practice their kindness and love each day.
An added bonus to our acts of kindness is that “pay it forward” aspect. We may never know all the far-reaching effects of our words, notes or lifestyle practices on others, but here in a brand new year, it’s the perfect time to give it a try.