Don’t we all need a little more kindness sprinkled through our lives–both kindness we receive and kindness we give?
I don’t mean large-scale, heroic kindness, but more of the small-scale embellishments that can put smiles on faces, give courage to persevere over the next few hours, and make ordinary lives more livable.
Kindness is like a homeopathic remedy where a few small drops can produce big changes. It’s more than doing an occasional nice gesture or favor. It’s a sharing of presence.
The cool part is that offering kindness opens our hearts as well.
When I look at how I spend my days, there are so many opportunities to cultivate kindness in the most ordinary settings: in the grocery line, through an email, in a telephone conversation, and even on Facebook.
Tracking kindness on Facebook
If you hold your nose when I say Facebook. I understand. For some, Facebook has gone over to the dark side, part of the evil empire that’s out to manipulate and trash our lives.
Our data on Facebook has been stolen and used inappropriately. I take no comfort in hearing CEO Mark Zuckerberg tell Congress his version of “Oops, I’m sorry.”
Then, there’s the matter of Facebook advertising. Sure, it’s a business that’s paid for by ads. But, does anyone else think it’s creepy to see the item you just looked at online–in my case some flashy Zumba pants–suddenly dancing before you on Facebook? When will Facebook start spying on those old sweaters in my closet?
(I won’t touch the issue of Russian trolls on Facebook that derailed the last US presidential election.)
I can understand hesitating before investing any energy in Facebook.
Still, Facebook is the way many of us are able to connect and communicate with people we care about when we can’t be with them. I use it to track the comings and goings on my island, to keep in touch with old friends, and build new online friendships.
If we are going to use Facebook, let’s make it a force for good!
The magic of support
My last week was rough. It started well enough, as my husband and I looked forward to welcoming the new dog we had agreed to foster: the rotund, but thoroughly delightful, Jackson. But on the first day of 2019, my life changed when my wonderful cat buddy, Barry, unexpectedly decided to take a chunk out of my hand.
After fifteen years of cuddling together, I was shocked as well as injured by his bite.
It got worse. So I decided to write… on Facebook.
I don’t post a lot on Facebook. Don’t expect me to show you a photo of the cool cappuccino my local barista made–you’ve seen your own. And don’t expect me to respond when you post a series of photos of the five-course, five-star dinner you had on your trip, given that I probably can’t afford the appetizer. (Do you hear a little sour grape?)
Last week, though, I wanted to share. I felt raw and vulnerable, ready to go beyond the “see my great life” façade some people use to spin their posts. I wrote three:
- In my first, I shared excitement and whimsy as I awaited the arrival of our new foster dog. My friends echoed my enthusiasm, laughed with me, and added their congratulations.
- In my second post, I reported on being bitten by my beloved cat. Friends commiserated and told me to see the doctor. (I did). A couple suggested that, given the cat’s age, something in his health or condition might have changed.
- In my third post, I shared the excruciating decision to have our cat put down, on the day our new dog joined us. My friends embraced my tears, and perhaps shed a few of their own.
As I read the comments, I felt heard and helped. I savored them: “Your dog looks so cute.” “Take good care of yourself.” “I had a cat bite. Get help.” “What a beautiful, bittersweet tribute.” “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Oh, Sally.”
I appreciated each comment, especially the ones full of an “I’ve been there, too” empathy.
I was so grateful.
Not all posts on Facebook elicit such comments. People do seem to respond more to posts that involve kittens, puppies, deaths, and babies.
But here’s the truth: when we respond to any post, we have an opportunity to infuse kindness into what we offer.
I can testify: it matters.
Transforming the ordinary
As you think about your day, are there times when you could pause an extra moment and connect to someone by offering a little extra kindness?
Facebook may not be your ticket–that’s not the point. You send an unexpected email. You pick up the phone. Or bump into someone at the doctor’s office. Any of your default activities will do. You pause, you listen, you open your heart and you respond: “It’s so good to see you.” Or, “Thanks for telling me that.” “That must be hard.” “I’m so excited for you.” You choose words that echo your heart.
When I researched the word kindness, I discovered that it shares roots with the word “kin.” When we are kind, we treat others as kin.
I bet there’s a simple act of kindness you could offer today that will spread kinship in the world.
Something beautiful can grow in the most ordinary settings.
Even on Facebook.