18 November, 2010

Kindness and Compassion

“Can I give you a ride to the top of the hill?”
“To the top of the hill?”  I had to smile as the walk to the top of the hill would be great though the walk isn’t challenging. 
However, when we arrived at the top of the hill… “Oh, I will just give you a ride to your office, I have three minutes.”
I could have walked; I had anticipated walking; but… the ride was nice and resulted in my being able to get everything I needed to do done so that I arrived to pick up my daughter just in time. 
A simple gesture was this ride – an act of kindness. 
Over the past year (plus) I have found myself aware of kindness more than in the past.  This awareness is twofold – that which I give to others and myself and that which I am given by others.  It has been quite a year. 
I would like to say that this process is one that I initiated; but, I can’t.  My awareness of kindness, and to some extent compassion, is the direct result of another’s persistent actions toward me and my daughter’s observance of this behavior.  It is the result of my work to detach myself from this behavior; to set my boundaries; and to find my voice thus further defining the person that I am.  While I have evolved, my daughter has witnessed compassion and kindness (or the lack there of) first hand and in ways that hit close to her heart.  Confusing for her, perhaps, and yet a valuable learning experience about kindness and compassion. 
Compassion and kindness are lessons I want to give my daughter.  She is a natural at them – and these are traits I want her to appreciate and build upon as she enters the different phases of her life.  Raising Compassionate Children is the responsibility of parents.  The reports about bullying, intolerance, and stress facing contemporary children leaves me convinced that there is a need to do what we can to teach kindness and compassion.
What are kindness and compassion?
The two terms are linked in my mind.  It is as if the act of being kind is a part of compassion, though compassion can be given without taking action.  Compassion could be the recognition of the suffering of another.    It is, in a sense, the recognition of connectedness.  And from compassion we can extend ourselves, offering assistance, warmth, solidarity, and kindness. 
Last week Christine Carter wrote about Practicing Kindness.  Two ideas struck me after reading the article – Why do people think that kindness requires time?  And have we always had to learn to be kind or teach our children to be kind? 
Although I don’t have an answer to the second question, I can say that kindness requires no time.  It seems that it is more about a change of perspective than anything else.  I don’t know that we have to teach people to be kind as much as we need to learn to recognize where we fit into the world and the lives of those around us.  Isolation or living in the bubble doesn’t allow us to be kind nor does it foster compassion.  It is amazing what happens when we step out of that isolation and see, truly see, those with whom we share the world. 
Kindness can be as simple as a smile or eye contact when saying please or thank you.  It is genuinely saying “have a good day.”  Or not multi-tasking and listening when someone is talking.  It costs nothing to be kind; yet, kindness and compassion can change your outlook and the world. 
Today is the anniversary of the Charter for Compassion.  It is a wonderful opportunity for people to take a few minutes and consider how they can add more kindness and compassion to their daily lives – toward family, friends, coworkers, and strangers.  It is an opportunity to become more compassionate, model compassion and kindness, and build the awareness of these wonderful gifts  in our children. 
Compassion and kindness are part of my life – I teach them to my daughter as much as I learn them from her.  And what about you?  Are kindness and compassion aspects of your life?
Giulietta asks how we can give ourselves more compassion?          


Sara said...

TE -- I agree with you about many things you said in this post. One line stood out for me: "It is amazing what happens when we step out of that isolation and see, truly see, those with whom we share the world."

I agree with you that kindness is a way of connecting positively with others and they with us.

I am proud of you for being a parent who teaches her daughter how to be compassionate and kind. This is an essential subject that needs to be taught to all children.

Personally, I think being truly compassionate and kind...is the greatest "high" there ever was:~)

Great post!!!!

LesleyG said...

I think kindness is the first step to becoming the people (individually and collectively) we are all truly meant to be. The more we do it, the more we teach it, the further along we'll be. Great words here! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi TE .. it is exactly as you say - small acts of kindness carried out compassionately can give so much pleasure.

Small acts occur on the spur of the moment and should happen naturally - if we're brought up as you are bringing your daughter up .. to think of others.

Other acts can be pre organised .. that are 'gifts' too ..

Great thoughts TE .. thanks - Hilary

Davina Haisell said...

Marla, I love what you've said about parents raising compassionate children -- very true. Bullying is a sad thing and kids don't realize what they are doing; especially if they've never been on the receiving end.

I agree that kindness doesn't have to take up a lot of time. And when it does technically involve time, when it's done because the person is following their heart, time is not even a concern.

BigLittleWolf said...

I think hard times sometimes creates more compassionate people. And it's amazing, too, how kind strangers can be. Compassionate people? The best.

giulietta nardone said...

Hi TE,

Thanks for mentioning my post! What has happened to us as a species that we have to teach kindness? You're so right that it ought to be natural and top of mind - or is it that we use our minds too much, rather than our hearts?

I still believe we enter the world with all those loving traits and then get sidetracked as we march along.

One of my friends wanted her children to be kind and arranged her child rearing to reflect that. Lovely, kind girls she's got!

Can we export kindness and compassion or measure our GNP by them instead of how much stuff folks buy?