There is so much strife, grief, anxiety, sadness and anger all over the world. If we allow ourselves day in and day out to stew in bad news, there will be nothing left of our spirit. We will be physically tired and emotionally drained. What we choose to feed our mind with constantly, consumes us.
I’m not advocating apathy, but rather, I wish to push for a different kind of revolution, if you can call it that – a kindness revolution.
In the Philippines where there are now, as of last count, 6,000-plus deaths that have resulted from an all-out war against drugs, we are raising a nation of orphans. Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, you are either rejoicing over all the changes that the current administration has brought, or close to pulling your hair over the recent political events and pronouncements.
Are there only two choices really?
No. You can choose to filter what you listen to, and how much information you wish to allow your brain and your heart to absorb on a daily basis. And you can choose instead to focus on creating good and sharing kindness, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. This is what I mean by being at the forefront of a kindness revolution.
The idea for it began after an almost month-long trip to the United States in November. I had been in Scottsdale taking a refresher course for my grief coaching practice back home in Manila when November 8 happened. The following day in class, I had a front row seat to what I call the “mourning after.” I’m certain that a percentage of the class was secretly rejoicing inside, but the pall of gloom that shrouded the room that post-election day was too thick you could almost slice through it.
Returning to Manila a couple of weeks later and catching up on all the events that took place while I was gone, I found myself spiraling into a different kind of sadness. Maybe it was the jetlag too, but I felt so weary for several days after my return. And then one morning, like a gift, I came upon a beautiful poem entitled “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Part of it reads :
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
Catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes,
And sends you out into the day to mail letters
And purchase bread,
Only kindness raises its head
From the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
And then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.”
Drawing inspiration from her poetry, I encouraged friends to join in a #kindnessrevolution that we would mount until the end of the year. The challenge was to show kindness whenever possible, when it is least expected. And then, the stories began to come in. Random acts of kindness from friends who shared their stories but wanted to remain anonymous. Kindness they received, kindness they gave away and kindness they showed to themselves.
The most moving stories were acts of kindness given by those who had very little in life and yet, without hesitation gave their all. A poor little boy who stood outside the village gates in the rain to keep a lost Labrador retriever company because passersby were taunting the dog, offering his last biscuit to his furry friend while they waited in the rain. Stories of strangers showing kindness in a supermarket line, by paying for the groceries of the street children lined up behind them. Kindness shown by a someone who responded to a stranger’s email close to midnight, dishing out words of comfort and advice, an act that resulted in saving the young distraught woman from taking her own life.
The author Parker Palmer put it perfectly when he said that people become better able to offer understanding and compassion to others --- not in spite of their suffering, but because of it. “Instead of growing bitter and passing their pain on to others, they’ve said, ‘This is where the pain stops and the love begins.’”
In reading all those stories of kindness and sharing them with the world in a different kind of “revolution” the aching heart is soothed, and in the process, the fear and anxieties for an unknown future are allayed. The potential for kindness is present in every encounter if we choose to be mindful, and yes, to be kind. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “It is the history of our kindnesses that makes this world tolerable. If it were not for that, for the effect of kind words, kind looks, kind letters…I should be inclined to think our life a practical jest in the worst possible spirit.” It is kindness, after all, that heals the world. It binds up wounds and lifts spirits. It is the greater force, that has been proven time and again to trump the darkness of an unknown future.
Let’s celebrate kindness. Share with us the acts of kindness you have given, experienced or witnessed: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy S. Babao, mother, author, columnist, grief educator and counselor works as a communications consultant for various multinational companies, and teaches grief education at the Ateneo de Manila University.
She writes "Roots and Wings", a weekly column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She has written two books, Heaven's Butterfly, a children's book on grief, and Between Loss and Forever: Filipina Mothers on the Grief Journey, a finalist for the 2011 National Book Awards.
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