Kindness and Generosity

I've written about this before, here, and was going to talk about it yesterday before Kaylee-bug sidetracked me with her sweetness, so if some of what I am saying here is redundant then I apologize. I am thankful today, and everyday honestly, for the kindness and generosity inherent in the human spirit.

In an era of 24 hour news cycles in which every network, pundit and talking head is grubbing for their fifteen minutes to dissect the current issues and news stories (often times warping the already muddled and still developing facts to further their political agendas) and spew ignorant decisive diatribes, we need to take time to remember that the ones talking think they are doing good. Where aggression and conflict seem to exist as the basis for most entertainment mediums we would do well to remember that it is only that way because that is what sells. Where selfishness seems to be the default setting for most people as an almost survival instinct it is because all of this is being shoved in our faces during most waking hours. It is sometimes difficult to remember that everyone has the capacity for giving and receiving kindness and generosity. I would wager a fairly strong bet that even the most frustrated or socially and emotionally introverted people want nothing more than to be recognized and treated kindly by others, to step back from all the nonsensical clutter of modern life and just take a booster shot of kindness.

Between 1943 and 1954 one of the earliest psychologists of modern times, Abraham Maslow, began developing an "Hierarchy of Needs".

"In his quest to understand human motivation and the pursuit of happiness, he (Maslow) formulated a list of basic human needs that had to be fulfilled for maximum psychological health. Through his interviews and studies, he came to categorize a hierarchical list of needs that need be fulfilled for increasing life satisfaction." (

Maslow theorized that in order to reach our full potential for happiness there are certain basic needs we have to fulfill. One of those needs being the respect and love of others. We all need to be loved, we yearn for it. We also need to feel we fit into the society of which we are a part. Without kindness those societies are akin to a vehicle with a flat tire, sure they will still drive but after a short distance that wheel is going to break then completely fall apart and that car will come to a grinding halt.

A couple weeks ago I started paying specific attention to kindness and generosity as a sort of social curiosity, attempting to notice the difference in peoples lives that the simplest acts could generate. What I noticed was random acts of kindness have the potential to not only greatly improve the day or mood of those being acted upon but also those providing the kindness. One simple act could turn someone's horrible day into a chance to recalculate what their experience actually has been; give them the clarity to see that, while they think they are slogging through a mire of inequities, there are people who care and life really isn't that bad. The awesome part is that the kindness you project can also have the same effect on your well-being. Try stripping away the preconceived notions of what you believe a person will think about it and try thanking someone today, for whatever reason, just thank someone who wouldn't normally be thanked and see if you can tell a difference in their demeanor as well as yours. As a receiver, try the same. Even if you were raised in an environment in which kindness came in tandem with some sort of manipulative baggage, try your best to set that aside and specifically see those instances where some people just want to be nice.

If you can, for a minute, see the kindness of others as just that, not as some agenda driven act or some social quid pro quo in which a stranger is doing you a solid in order to get something in return, but a simple kindness, then you can truly see the beauty that still exists in this society. From a personal standpoint, kindness is just that. I have never opened a door or helped a stranger in need (regardless of the task at hand) in the hopes that I will be thanked or rewarded. I merely do it because we are all in this together. I think all people want to be nice, there is just so much derision and manipulation in today's society that it is often times difficult to be kind and not looked upon as suspicious.

Help me throw some gas on a fire that I feel is currently guttering in the fireplace of our lives. Take even a fraction of your life today and devote it to someone in need.

  • Open the door for someone

  • Smile at or compliment a stranger

  • Pick up something someone drops

  • Pick up some litter

  • Feed an expiring parking meter

  • Pay for someone's coffee

The list goes on and on. For more inspiration, simple google "Nice things to do for others".

Do it selfishly if you need to. I've broken myself out of poor moods simply by helping my neighbor unload heavy tables from her car while her husband was out of town. Sure the tables were heavy, sure I could have been doing things that pertained specifically to me but the more I thought about it as I was helping, the more I realized I was partially doing it for me. Seeing the gratitude on her face was enough to help me see that everybody struggles, everybody wants to think that they can do it all on their own, but nobody truly can. When you can put yourself aside long enough to recognize the beauty inherent in an otherwise unprovoked act of genuine kindness then you can begin to see the happiness we are all guaranteed in our lives.

Lastly I will begrudgingly say please exercise some modicum of caution when practicing your kindness. I will be the first to say that I will whip my car to the side of the interstate to help a stranded motorist change a tire or give them a lift to the nearest gas station to fill a drained tank but unfortunately the nature of ill-will exists in our world. If you want to express some grand gesture of generosity, please give the situation a good, honest gut check before approaching. I would hate to grandstand about the awesomeness of kindness then hear about someone who was obliterated by an inattentive driver or some such circumstance.

As always, you guys are awesome. Thank you for reading!

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