Kindness Is Love Made Visible.
I can’t recall her name, but I’ll always remember the teacher who started our first day of the new school year by banning two words.
With a bright white piece of chalk, she wrote the two words on the board. A class of bright-eyed eleven and twelve-year-olds waited. She turned dusted her hands and announced that if we ever used either of those words in our writing, she would fail us.
The words were nice and got.
As we all understand the power of teachers, no one will be surprised to read that even to this day, I avoid those words. Got was fairly easy to kick to the curb, but avoiding the word nice, made me think about the meaning of the word. If I couldn’t write, Belinda is nice, I’d have to decide what quality of Belinda’s I found nice. Was Belinda thoughtful, or kind, or funny, or generous? (No doubt this is exactly what Mrs. Teacher had in mind.)
From that day onwards, I always had an uneasy relationship with the word nice. It would snag in my ear when other people used it, and I have to stop myself saying Nice? What sort of word is nice? As I was so hyper-focused on the word, I noticed that people often used kind to describe an act I thought of as nice: “He was kind to give the old lady his seat.” I’d be thinking, No, he did it to impress Susie, he didn’t care at all about the old lady, she was a means to an end. Nice was a word best avoided.
To me, the words were not interchangeable; kind and nice were two entirely different things. By the time I was an adult, I had realized the world would benefit from increased kindness more than it would benefit from increased niceness.
So, what is the difference between being nice and being kind?
Nice is when you mail a note to a sick friend. Kind is getting in your car to sit with her and hold her hand.
Being nice makes you feel good. But being kind is the act of doing good.
When you are kind to someone, you are showing them they matter; they count, they are important enough for you to extend them this kindness.
You do this act of kindness, expecting nothing in return. The only thing on your mind is the other person’s well-being.
The man walking his old dog, who stops at every house and takes the carelessly thrown morning newspaper and places it on the porch. I only see him because I’m awake and opening my curtains onto the new dawn. That is kind of him. He gets nothing from this. No one thanks him—most aren’t even up. At that moment, all he is thinking about is how much easier it will be for people to have their newspaper waiting, steps from their door. Maybe it will start their day off better.
Kindness is based on generosity; you are willing to give of your time, your talents, your heart, your spirit. It is not small-minded or manipulative. It is not waiting for something in return. It is filled with the love of humanity. It is care and concern for all who share this one world.
When we do something kind for someone else, we do it because we see ourselves in that other person. Dropping a dollar into the homeless person’s hat is nice—and that’s a good thing! Stopping to talk to the person, and to listen, is kind. You look at them and think, but for the luck, privileges, opportunities, and benefits I have been given….
“It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.” – Andrew Iskander
Kindness asks us to go that extra mile, go out of our way, do something that isn’t always convenient. A friend loses her job, and you are nice enough to text a quick message and row of crying emojis. Or, you take time out of your day, to sit with them and polish their resume, practice their interview skills, or help them network. Nice versus kind.
In our current divided world, we sometimes struggle to see ourselves in certain people. We know their views and beliefs are not ours, not even close to ours. But, if we are unable to see their humanity, that tiny part of them that is also in us, how are we able to be kind to them? I wish I had the magical answer to that question. Maybe one way to start is to be kind to yourself?
There are so many benefits to being kind.
Acts of kindness leave us feeling happier—and the feeling lasts. Being kind relieves anxiety and stress. Even seeing an act of kindness makes us feel better.
Many of us are living very contained lives without the usual comings and goings of our previous lives, but we can still practice kindness.
“One kind word can change someone’s entire day.” – Anonymous
For me, one of the most important pillars of strong relationships is kindness. The little (or big) things you do for the other person that they may not even witness. Many of us enjoy the loving gestures, the surprise party, or the extravagant gift. But I’ve found a more accurate reflection is what happens in the quiet moments. Those times when it is just you two, no friends to make envious, no cameras to snap the moment, no grand content to flood your social media.
Maybe if we extend these acts to those outside of our direct family, circle, or neighborhood, we will start to see the humanity in everyone.