February 24, 2010

Kindness always counts…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Spirituality at 7:22 pm by dinaheng

I love watching the Olympics. SInce I’m not a great athlete, I’m always inspired by watching people who excel at sports.

It’s easy to laud those who have the skill to win competitions that show tangible results. There’s little arguing with the stopwatch in a downhill ski run. As long as the Olympian is still standing when crossing the finish line, you usually know who won right away.

There are competitions for almost anything you can imagine — sports, cooking, singing, dancing, chess, mathematics, spelling. Think of any category of human achievement, and someone will invent a contest to measure accomplishments in the field.

Competitions are important because they give us benchmarks to aspire to. They bring people together who have common interests, and they remind us of what’s valuable in life.

Wouldn’t it be something if we ever held a contest to name the world’s kindest people?

Do you ever wonder why random acts of kindness tend to stand out so much in our society? We’re so conditioned to think of ourselves first that any act that benefits another first is seen as a sacrifice, rather than a joy.

If people were rewarded as much for showing kindness as they were for landing triple toe loops or scoring the winning goal in a hockey game, imagine how different life would be. If politicians were elected for their ability to think of others more than themselves, how long would it really take to agree on health care reform?

I believe that kindness is an innate part of being human. We’ve just forgotten to tap into the part of our hearts that automatically open to others in need. We’ve stopped teaching children to be kind, with the same priority we give to excelling in sports or academia, and need to reinforce the lesson with practice and reward.  Until the practice of giving becomes its own reward.

Kindness, after all, is not a hard skill to master. It doesn’t require counting calories, sweating, or grand gestures. It takes just a minute to think of someone else’s needs, along with your own.

I was paying for some craft items recently at a hobby store, using a full page newspaper advertisement that was filled with individual coupons for various items. After the cashier clipped out the two coupons I wanted to use, I turned to the woman in line behind me and offered the rest of the coupons to her.

Surprised, she thanked me, and as I walked away, I heard the cashier say, “That was really kind of her.”

I kind of hope that the cashier kept the rest of the coupons, and gave them away to whoever needed them after us.

I’ve been the recipient of many people’s impromptu gifts, and have come to understand that whenever we give to someone, we’re also giving to ourselves. Because there’s really only One of us.

Athletes train for the Olympics for years, and when the competition ends, they go back to being… themselves. For those who practice kindness, there is no end to the good that can be done… and no greater way to show who we really are.

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