His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, says, “My religion is kindness.” It’s a simple phrase but filled with the potential to change people’s lives and change the world.
Kindness is one of the ways we can practice the Golden Rule, which is found in the teachings of all the Kindness is more than just a simple act of caring or compassion, it is a positive influence in the world and is contagious. For when you do an act of kindness, that person is inspired to do an act of kindness for another.
And so, kindness grows and flourishes from person to person. But when we refrain from Thursday evening, there was a gathering at the corner of Main and Townsend, spontaneously put together by two women in our community. Other people came to hold signs about love and kindness, hope and joy and peace, and to smile and wave in friendliness to all those passing by the corner which was busy with traffic going home and travelers.
I was there and very surprised to see how many people turned their heads away from the kind and smiling faces. I am happy to report that many more people honked and waved and one young man walking by joined in, held up a sign, and stood with us for a little while until he had to go. He took the time to do something important for his life.
Practicing kindness, love and compassion begins at home with each of us. Are you kind to yourself? Do you speak kind words to yourself? Did you know that you speak more to yourself than to any other person during the day? Kindness begins first with the self. If you don’t practice kindness with yourself, it is difficult to be kind to others.
The next step is to practice kindness with your family members. Do you yell at your children and your spouse? Do you argue with your neighbors or kick your dog? There are so many golden opportunities to practice kindness with your family. How you would like to be treated is a good rule to follow in doing an act of kindness. It is, in fact, the Golden Rule.
We don’t have to do great acts of kindness, although those are appreciated too. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” One act of kindness leads to another act of kindness and soon our community and then the world will be filled with kindness.
Several years ago, I lived in California, where no one knows their neighbors, let alone speaks to them. I flew to Texas to attend my nephew’s wedding. We stayed at a motel and early in the morning I went to the office to get a cup of coffee. As I was walking across the lawn toward the office a gentleman wearing a cowboy hat was walking toward me. As we passed, he tipped his hat and said, “Good morning, ma’am.” I was so shocked at his simple act of kindness, of simply greeting me, that I burst into tears. It had been so long since I felt the kindness of Western hospitality. That little bit of good changed my life. I returned to California and made plans to come back to Colorado. I also vowed to never pass anyone again without greeting them and showing kindness wherever I could. A bit of kindness does make a difference.
The other side of acts of kindness is appreciating the kindness. Appreciation and gratitude are powerful forces for good. “Please” and “thank you” are not just magic words for children, they are magic words for everyone. Kindness, courtesy, appreciation and gratitude are acts that will change the world, but only if each one of us practices them every day. So, make your day filled with kindness and remember that kindness is contagious. Spread it around lavishly. Be kind to yourself, your family, your neighbors, strangers, your pets, and all other living beings, and be kind to Mother Earth. Your act of kindness may very well save the world. Bless you and your acts of kindness.
The Rev. Arlyn Macdonald is the senior minister of the Spiritual Awareness Center, dean of the Spiritual Development Center and author of three books on spiritual development.