It’s not enough for Americans to love one another; we must also be good to one another. This means actively looking for opportunities to be good to other Americans and this can be in ways big or small. Small ways can be acts of courtesy, which are essentially acts of kindness such as showing respect, holding doors for others, letting other drivers into your lane, a friendly smile, acknowledging someone’s presence, or perhaps surprising your coworkers with donuts in the morning. Leave little notes for your spouse to find throughout the day. For the kids sneak a little note into their lunchbox. When possible, attend every event your kid or spouse is participating in (i.e. soccer practice, band concert, football game).
We let our family members know they are important to us when we show attention to what is valuable to them. Yes, work may sometimes get in the way…but if your work is regularly keeping you from sharing important moments with your family then your priorities are wrong. This is because your work has become more important than your family – or at least, that is the message your spouse and kids will get from you. To quote a wise man: “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’” Value your family and friends while you have them. You don’t get a second chance to get to know your kids while they are young. Before you know it your children will be grown — but you will always have another chance to work late at the office.
We can also plan for bigger ways to help one another – local nonprofits and charities are always seeking volunteers. We can be our employer’s point of contact for employee/corporate donations of food to local food banks, and can volunteer in charity fundraisers. If you see an unmet need in your community, is there something you can do to help fill it? Even if you cannot solve the problem can you be some part of the solution? Can you perhaps reduce the problem, even if only a little? If many people each reduce the problem by a little, imagine what all we could do for our fellow citizens! Consider volunteering at a retirement center, a nursing home, a hospital or a hospice– far too many of our citizens spend their older years alone, just when they have so much wisdom and knowledge that could benefit others. Can you imagine how lonely some of our elderly must feel when they are both sick and alone? Even small acts of kindness can reduce pain and suffering in our world. There is such a great need in our communities and you can be a healing agent in your own city or town. You can set the tone for kindness in society. Can you be a kind person while volunteering in your church or house of worship? If you can, then do it. Volunteering will help get you out of yourself and focused on the needs of others. Look for opportunities while volunteering to be kind and helpful to others. It’s not enough merely to volunteer if we are not on the lookout for opportunities to be kind while volunteering. The key to kindness is the personal interaction – the mental connection – even if only for a moment, when two people treat one another with dignity and respect. Every person you meet desires to be treated with dignity. More importantly, every person deserves to be treated with dignity.
We start with the premise that every person is deserving of dignity and respect simply because they are fellow humans. As such we know that every person we meet has the same hopes for happiness and inner peace that we ourselves have. Everyone wants to be treated with kindness. This is true for the deeply religious as well as for the atheist, the straight white male or the gay black female, and this is true for the Muslim as well as for the Jew. All humans desire to be treated with dignity and are worthy of such simply because they are human beings with hopes and dreams just like you and I.
Kindness is the first step in treating people with dignity.