Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind. Henri Frederic Amiel
What do kindness and mindfulness have to do with each other? Have you ever been so distracted by the thoughts racing through your mind that you completely missed what was happening around you? Without awareness, how can you possibly be responsive to others’ needs?
Years ago, I had to carry my sleeping toddler son through the pouring rain to pick up my daughter from religion class. As I struggled to open the heavy wooden church door, while juggling the dead weight of my son and an umbrella, a woman approached the door from inside the church. I thought I was in luck, but she pushed the door open, walked through it and past me, while I waited in the rain holding my toddler and umbrella in disbelief.
I had two thoughts as she pushed past me. Okay, three thoughts. The first was uncharitable and included a bit of name-calling. The second was the irony of her leaving a church in such an uncharitable way. The third was the realization that, for all my indignation, her rudeness wasn’t about me. You see, as she pushed her way through the door, she was talking on her cell phone. She was completely unaware of my presence and my predicament. She was in her own little world.
As a cancer patient, I experienced exponential levels of kindness from so many people. This created an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that completely changed me. Never a prolific thank you letter writer before, I wrote many, many emails of appreciation.
I also searched for active ways to give back. I joined The Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, the Oncology Community Advisory Board of The Carol G. Simon Cancer Center and the Cancer Hope Network as a volunteer. The kindness I received makes me continually mindful of paying it back – and forward.
All it takes is one act of mindful kindness to cause a ripple effect that lasts for years. I wrote a recent post, “What Do Mom Jeans Have to Do with Self-Confidence,” which elicited the following comment:
When I was being wheeled out of the hospital after one of my visits with infections and 103 fevers, I was wearing a black turban and had no eyebrows and eyelashes and feeling very ugly and depressed. I was carrying a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and a woman in he lobby came over and said to me, “Those are beautiful flowers . . .just like you.” My mood totally changed. Ever since, I have been making an effort to complement people and perform loving acts of kindness. I am always rewarded by their responses which give me a feeling of self-confidence.
Making the effort to be kind requires mindful awareness. It is simply impossible to be kind when in the throes of “mind fullness.” Start today by being kind to yourself. Give yourself a break, don’t self-criticize, don’t find fault and hold yourself responsible for things you can’t control. Learn how to smile at yourself and give yourself a pat on the back.
It doesn’t take a lot to be kind, just a little bit of mindfulness and awareness of “the little things,” that make people happy – like simply holding open a door.
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of Jessica Wilson