Be kind. Consider the rippling effect a kind word and a friendly smile has on your mood. Now consider if the entire community made the effort to show kindness first.
By Jordan DeWald
What a simple greeting. Those two words make up one of the most well-known pop culture phrases. We all heard them as children and they still invoke a smile and peaceful feeling as adults. It is because we all heard those words in the kind and gentle voice of Fred Rogers who spoke to generations through his acclaimed television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
We are in a contentious time right now in the United States. In a time where self-centeredness, arguments and unrest seem to be more prevalent than simple kindness, I thought it might be refreshing to take a moment to learn from the wisdom of Mr. Rogers. I’d bet as you read his words, you hear his voice and it gives you a little smile.
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
To be a neighbor you must first recognize that you have neighbors. Start with your literal neighbors. A simple wave and a greeting as you both pull in the driveway after work is a start. How about instead of posting negative remarks on neighborhood Facebook forums, you meet your neighbor face to face and learn their story. Maybe that overgrown lawn belongs to someone who is down because of surgery and they just needed someone to offer to mow it for them.
The people in your community are your neighbor: The kids at your child’s school, the single mom you work with, the elderly man around the corner, the person in line with you at the grocery store. You can choose to let them be just be another body without a name and without a story. Or, they can be someone who needs to be shown a little extra kindness and you get to be the person who does that. It is a lot easier to choose to take care of others when you consider them your neighbor. We can lament about the state of the world today or we can “see the need and respond.”
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
“This world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”
Think about the last interaction you had with someone and what you left of yourself at that meeting with that person. Are you satisfied or do you wish you could trade it out? What a profound thing to say by Mr. Rogers, that we are important to people in ways we have no idea about. Use that wisely because it is powerful!
You need to know that your life matters. It matters to the people you directly interact with and it matters to, as Mr. Rogers said, “the people you may never even dream of.” Your life matters. It is difficult to be kind to others if you have a hard time being kind to yourself so that is the first place you have to start. Recognize the good that is in you and work from there knowing every misstep can be corrected. Mistakes do not define who you are as a person, they are just part of your story and what you do with them is the next chapter.
“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”
What an amazing power a kind word has. You have the choice of the effect your words can have regardless of the purpose for saying them. Whether you are correcting, informing, teaching or having a casual conversation, your words can either uplift or put down a person. The message will still be communicated either way but it sure makes a lasting difference if it is done with kindness. Kind words are only kind when they are genuine. Make a concerted effort to look at the person you are talking to as a unique individual, as your neighbor, and that should help you to speak with kindness towards them.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
What a wonderful place to live in, where there are always helpers. No matter how many times we hear a negative story about an individual, you can always find more stories about someone who doing good. Being a helper can be wearisome though. I encourage you to find the “helpers” in your life and thank them. Helpers can wear different hats for different people but consider the people who make your life easier, safer and all around better.
Are you a helper? What are ways that you could be that person for someone else?
“The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.”
All you have to do is spend just a little time in the locally owned shops, restaurants and businesses in your community and you will meet these highly successful people Mr. Rogers speaks of. You will catch their vision as you listen to them talk because they truly believe in it. There are few things more special than getting to be a part of helping someone’s dream come true. That is what patrons of locally owned businesses get to do every time they shop or use a service. They step into the vision of the business owner and say “I support you and I believe in you.” Take some time to chat with the local business owners in town, and their employees. Learn the history behind the business and the story behind the dream. Ask about the causes that are important to them, because local businesses are absolutely the biggest supporters of local causes. Take the time to get to know the staff and be a kind customer.
“There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.”
It is that simple: be kind. Consider the rippling effect a kind word and a friendly smile has on your mood. Now consider if the entire community made the effort to show kindness first. What if each person exercised patience, supported one another, spoke a kind word and saw each person as their neighbor? What if they found their purpose and success in how they made a difference in a person’s life and tried to be a helper? It sounds pretty incredible, but it certainly isn’t impossible. All we would have to do is listen to the gentle wisdom we have been taught from childhood and act on it as adults.
It only seems appropriate to end this in the same way that Mr. Rogers closed each episode:
“You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”