Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Resolved for 2017: To Be Kind

Resolution (noun) 1. the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action;
a decision or determination; firmness of purpose.

This year I’m going to try to carry out just one New Year’s resolution. Only one. That’s a big change from my usual tradition of penning a long list of resolutions in a frenzy of self improvement on January 1st , followed by a crash and burn on January 2nd.  Or maybe I make it to the third, if I’m lucky. Lose weight? Pass the Cheetos, please. Go to the gym? Too cold outside. Read more—only when my Netflix show is over. Save more money? Have you seen those January sales?!

I’m like most of the rest of humanity. My resolutions usually fail. Good intentions but bad follow through. Sound familiar? So this year my single resolution is radically different. It will cost nothing. Require no expensive gym membership, nor some high concept/low taste diet. No rice cakes or kale or coconut water. Instead of prohibiting a well worn behavior, this resolution is positive. Nor will I need to search on Amazon for the right self help book to get me started. It’s a resolution that offers instant payback too: goodwill, hope, and joy even.

Be it resolved: to be more kind in the year ahead. Kindness. That’s it. What do you think? Can I do it? Can you do it? Can we do it?  Be more kind in all our daily interactions with the rest of humanity? Or as my wise faith teacher taught: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I warned you it was radical!

To hold our tongue when we are tempted to judge, critique, put down or accuse.  Open the door for someone who needs help. Offer your seat to any one who needs to take a load off their feet.  Assume the best about others and their intentions. Never miss a chance to praise or give thanks. Go high when an opponent goes low. Be curious, not suspicious, about one who is different. Listen to a person when they are talking to you. Eyes off the phone. Ears open too. Let others go first while you take the last place in line. Smile more, frown less. Buy lemonade from the neighborhood kids and cookies from the Girl Scouts. Always. Give to charity generously, and then give even more. Be gracious in defeat, humble in victory. Volunteer. Do something nice when no one is looking. Pray for an enemy. Forgive quickly. Defend the vulnerable and weak. Guide the lost. Be a kindness role model for the young.   

I’m inspired to try this kindness resolution for one simple reason: 2016 was a year filled with so much unkindness.  Like the absolute worst, nastiest election I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.  In tenor, tone and temperament, from the candidates, to the media, to the voters, the campaign was awful. Every nasty word that could be uttered; every mean spirited thought that could be expressed; every cruel epithet that could be hurled, it was all said. Nothing held back. Kindness does seem in very short supply: hate crimes go up and simple civility goes down.  Terrorism scares us into suspecting anyone whom we deem as “foreign”.  Social media feeds us a daily diet of self-righteous rants and trolls, who like nothing better than to anonymously slam a fellow cyber space inhabitant.

I confess that our current political and social landscape tempts me to just roll over, throw up my hands in despair, or worse, become cynical, apathetic. Maybe even unkind.  Hence this singular resolution.  I cannot control the behavior of our leaders or anyone else for that matter. But I can choose, we can all choose, decide, to be kind.     

Like a good friend of mine: every day since the election, when she gets in the drive thru line at Dunkin’ Donuts, she pays for the coffee of the person in the car behind her. Someone surprised her with this single act of kindness and now she is committed to  paying it forward. She has no idea if the beneficiary of her gift is cranky or angelic, a Democrat or a Republican, shares her faith or has no faith.  But still she is kind. KIND. With a cup of coffee.

Will her one act of kindness end the war in Syria or defeat the bullies or save the world? Not right away and yet: she is doing what she can. She trusts and believes that kindness shared always grows.  Kindness is infectious and begets more kindness in an amazing ripple effect. Kindness is fun.  Kindness expands the heart and the soul. Kindness creates hope, for the giver and the recipient. Kindness is what her God teaches her to do.  Kindness is her radical act of resistance.

Resolved: in 2017, may we all be more kind to each other. I know I must try. Are you up for a little kindness? If we struggle to fulfill this resolution, just remember the advice of the author Henry James. “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

To a Happy (and Kinder) New Year!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you, John, for this encouragement. Like you, I'm appalled at the attitudes and events of the year just past, and determined not to become cynical. It ain't easy, as you know. Let's support each other in this endeavor!

    Over the past 6 months I've had 3 surgeries, with more to come this year. Recovery has been nonlinear and challenging, but I'm persevering. Thanks for your prayers.

    BTW, I've e-mailed Hakan Bashar, our tour guide in Turkey, a few times since the coup last year. He replied and thanked me, and sent regards to the group. After recent events, I'm deeply saddened at what's happening to this beautiful country and its people. Please ask our travel group to join me in praying for them.

    Best regards,
    Ray Hardin