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:
“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? That’s it?”
“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.
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)