How To Make The World Better

I wish there were an 800 number at the end of the newspaper that you could call to do something about the horrific things you’ve just read.

I would call on Sunday. I imagine it would go something like this:

Riiiiiing.

“The New York Times how-to-make-the-world-better-hotline. May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m calling because I feel really bad about all the terrible things in the world that I just read in your newspaper.”

“Wonderful. We appreciate your call.”

“So what can I do to make the world a better place? The problems are so big and I am just one person.”

“Be kind.”

“Be kind? That’s it?”

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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy SweetOnVeg

“Yes. Be kind to others and you will make the world a better place.”

It seems so simple. Think about it. If we all just resolved to be kinder to one another, that would go a long way towards making the world a better place.

Kindness is such a simple yet powerful thing. And it doesn’t even have to cost money. Smiling at people. Paying attention to people instead of your phone when they speak to you. Holding the door for people. In our current “everybody’s-too-busy-to-notice” world, these basic decencies things don’t happen as often as they should. I notice this in restaurants when I see people ordering food from a waiter without even looking up at him. And without a please or thank you.

If you haven’t yet read George Saunders’s convocation speech at Syracuse University, you must. It was about kindness. According to the L.A. Times, it was so well received that it will be published as a book next year by Random House.

I can’t think of better advice to give college graduates – or anyone else – than to be kind. And I really do wish there were an 800 number at the end of the newspaper to remind people to be kind.

Since there isn’t any such hotline, here are a few kindness resources in case you need some inspiration:

Spread kindness is an organization based in San Francisco that encourages people to perform random acts of kindness and collects stories from those who have witnessed kindness firsthand. Their site includes a helpful list of how you can be kind today.

Kind Campaign is an organization focused on helping girls be kind to each other. Founded by two college students who experienced bullying themselves, the organization helps establish Kind Clubs in schools that publish their own Kind Magazines. Kind Campaign also provides presentations at schools.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation creates material for schools to use to teach children about kindness. Plus, it gathers stories of kindness, which are always uplifting.

Finally, I leave you with a lovely quote about kindness:

“The words of kindness are more healing to a drooping heart than balm or honey.”

Sarah Fielding (1710-1768)
Novelist

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29 thoughts on “How To Make The World Better

  1. This reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut quote I posted on Facebook this morning, “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies–God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

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  2. In lists of virtues, kindness often gets relegated far below courage, honesty, intelligence, ambition, allure, etc.

    But I’m with you – kindness matters most. Thanks for posting this. 🙂

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  3. Love this! So true, and it’s pretty easy. I was sitting in the pick-up line at my kids’ school yesterday, thinking to myself how amazing elementary school employees are. After an undoubtably long day, they were still standing in the sweltering heat escorting little ones onto the buses and into cars. A pleasant woman approached my car and asked for my children’s names, and then she shuffled them out immediately. I thanked her, and then she apologized for not remembering my younger son’s name. I immediately reassured her that it was beyond fine. Hello! It’s only the third day of school. I was impressed that she knew anyone’s name at this point, especially since she doesn’t teach either of them. Well apparently, other parents had been blowing up the principle’s phone complaining about the inefficiency of the car-rider line. I quickly told her that this had very much not been my experience and I did my best to sincerely thank her again. THEN, the woman’s eyes filled with tears and she patted my hand and said, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today.” As I drove off, I thought about how people can be such entitled a-holes. I also thought about how much easier it is to be kind, and it was a good reminder that I should make a point to do so because it really does matter. Great post!

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    • What a nice story! Thank you for sharing that. You made that woman’s day and don’t we know that teachers need our gratitude and kindness more than anyone. They are the unsung heroes in our kids’ lives! And you’re right, people can be such jerks.

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  4. What a great post. Thanks for sharing! It is so true. When I think about someone being kind to me, especially someone I don’t really know, I always feel SO good. I feel especially good when I’ve just received the kindness and that in turn encourages me to be more kind to others. It has a flow on effect. We just need to share it to begin with!!

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  5. I think kindness is probably my highest rated virtue, the thing I appreciate the most in people. I often think of the line from the Jewel song “In the end, only kindness matters…”
    It’s not really that hard to be kind to people, it almost seems like more work to be rude.

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  6. I agree whole heartedly. Thanks for putting it so well!

    And while that hotline is a great idea, it would put the newspapers out of business since they seem to thrive on misfortune. I think it would be an act of kindness to force the newspapers to dedicate a page or two to good things^^

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  7. Totally agree with you. I was really pleased when one of my kids got a certificate at school last year for ‘always being kind and helpful to others’. It can be such an underrated trait but it’s such an important one.

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  8. Pingback: Commanded to Be Kind | A Map of California

    • Thank you for featuring my post and introducing me to your blog! I read yours and was blown away by your writing. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

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  9. What a great post! I love the speech and your other ideas as well. It really is amazing how much a kind word or act can make all the difference in the world. Often we’ll never know how our actions, even the tiny ones, can change somebody’s day and cause that person to show kindness to another and so on, like ripples that keep going outwards 🙂 Just think how many people you have touched by your post! Thanks for the wonderful reminder to be kind!

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