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Kindness as Its Own Motive

February, 2012
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kindnessWe are living at a time in history when genuine acts of kindness and compassion are limited by the fear of a lawsuit or even physical harm. Countless examples have been reported worldwide of injured people lying in the streets that are ignored by those passing by, fearful of being held responsible by those people who desperately need our help. In some large cities, there have been reports of individuals who have been “carjacked” by thieves sitting on the freeways pretending to need assistance. Even well intended greetings in our own school community can be met with smugness and rolling of the eyes. Is it really true that, “Nice guys finish last?”

Compassion, generosity, service, care, and consideration are but a few of the words that can be used to define kindness. A random act of kindness is one performed by a person or people wishing to assist or cheer up others. Learning to be kind is something that we can always practice and improve upon. Treating others the way we like to be treated, or the way we might treat our most beloved family members or friends, is a good start. Just taking the time to listen to others with empathy may be all that is needed to help an individual in need. “Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind,” said acclaimed American author Eric Hoffer.
 
My mentor in graduate school, Dr. Gary Moon, was one of the most humble and intelligent individuals I have ever met. He believed that most mental illnesses that people suffer from are often directly related to what he described as “compassion deficits,” especially early in life. Very young children who were not held, nurtured, or loved, but conversely were physically or verbally abused, had a much great likelihood of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and reactive detachment. It’s often stated that “Laughter is the best medicine;” but Dr. Moon believes that nothing heals the heart more than love and kindness.
While the risks of love and kindness are real, I would argue that a world without love and kindness would be a great deal more tragic. Much like forgiveness, kindness will benefit the giver as well as the recipient(s). The following poem demonstrates how the daily little things can make such a big difference:
 
The Little Things by Margaret Lindsey.
 
The little things are most worthwhile –
A quiet word, a look, a smile,
A listening ear that’s quick to share
Another’s thoughts, another’s care…
Though sometimes they may seem quite small,
These little things mean most of all.
 
There are 16 ways to show kindness:
1. Speak gently, always being positive and lifting others.
2. Help people, with no thought of reward.
3. Overlook others’ mistakes; have great patience with imperfections.
4. Forgive easily and quickly.
5. Put the needs and desires of others before your own.
6. Share the good things in your life freely.
7. Be genuinely interested in the welfare of others.
8. Give of yourself – especially your time.
9. Be polite and courteous.
10. Share another’s burden.
11. Listen patiently.
12. Set a good example.
13. Resist the urge to talk about others unkindly.
14. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.
15. Be fair and honest at all times.
16. Try to love people unconditionally.
 
 
By Paul M. Stambaugh,
ES Counselor, Shanghai American School, Puxi campus

 

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