By Rebecca Nielsen
A friend posted the above quote a few weeks ago and it struck me. I mean, REALLY struck me. Read it again.
Often times I pat myself on the back for being a nice person. After all, the world needs more nice people, right? And I am doing my part to fulfill the quota of niceness. I strike up small-talk with the local grocery clerk. I always respond to people politely. I try to smile at strangers. You know - I do my best to make sure people see that I’m nice.
But what good does that really do? Of course, it doesn’t hurt a thing to be well mannered. But does my emphasis on tact make a real difference in people’s day? Do they actually allow me to connect with people on a higher level? It kind of hurts to admit it, but here’s the answer: No. In fact, sometimes these routine niceties even prevent real relationships from evolving and I think we don’t even realize it.
I have a neighborhood friend that I’ve known for years. I smile & wave every time we pass each other. I’m nice to her. But one day last year, I actually stopped to talk. I came to find out her husband had left her a year earlier and that she didn’t have enough flour in her pantry to make her child a birthday cake.
I was mortified. “How could I have not noticed?” I thought to myself. “If I’d only known, I’d have been more than happy to support her!” But that’s just it - I didn’t know. I didn’t know because I hadn’t taken the time to find out. I had been nice, but certainly not kind.
Through some actual action, some friends and I were able to provide help and support to our very deserving neighbor. It was an incredible experience. It changed me. The smiles and waves were nice, but the action we took was kind. And now I find myself working to make sure that from now on, my acts of kindness come from who I truly am rather than who I want people to think I am.
Here’s the thing: being nice and being kind don’t have to be separate. They can certainly complement each other and we definitely need both. But have you ever been so nice to someone that you had no idea you weren’t being kind? True kindness connects people. It’s empathy, love, and action. It can be real and tangible. And it’s needed now more than ever before. So take some time to think today: are you nice, or are you kind?
Welcome to Provo Kindness! I initially thought I’d use this post to let you know why and how we started this initiative. If you’d like that background, please visit the “About Us” section of the website. Instead, we want to give you a better idea what Provo Kindness is by discussing: What is kindness?
In my high school junior year English class, we spent a great deal of time studying poetry. My homework every night was to open the dictionary and write down EVERY possible definition of every single word of every poem. At the time, I thought my teacher was crazy. It was one of the most time-consuming things I did that busy year, despite working with a group to divide up the workload. I initially thought to myself, “I know what most of these words mean. Why is she making us do this tedious work of writing definitions of even the most obvious words?” By the end of the poetry unit, I totally understood and was grateful that she had us do the hard work. We would discuss the poems in class with our definitions in hand. As we studied line by line, we looked at all of the meanings of each word and I realized that each poem had several layers of meaning. The poetry took on additional significance and I grew to see new beauty in the words on the page.
What does this have to do with kindness? Just like an Emily Dickinson poem, I see multiple layers of meaning.
What do you think of when you hear the word “kindness”? There are about as many answers to this as there are people, because our individual experiences shape our perception of kindness. Perhaps you think of doing little things for others, big service projects, or random acts. You might remember a time when someone reached out to you and lifted you up. Or maybe your perception of kindness is a negative one due to a bad experience with someone who has acted in a kind way towards you outwardly, but has not made you feel truly welcomed or included.
Whatever your personal definition about kindness, we are here to challenge your definition and expand it! Kindness is so much deeper than the surface actions we perform, as good as those may be. Kindness is about the inner attitudes. It’s about being genuine in seeing others as fellow human beings and treating them as such.
I like to think of Kindness as a big umbrella. Under that umbrella you’ll find:
We hope you’ll join us as we talk about everything under the kindness umbrella. We wish to increase your awareness. We’ll also share kindness challenges, inspiring quotes, and stories of people in our community. And just like my high school poetry study, as we do the hard work to increase our understanding, the beauty around us will increase and our lives will be greatly enriched.
Tell us, what would you add under the kindness umbrella?
This blog will be a place where we can talk together about all of the facets that relate to kindness. This will be a place where we can be vulnerable, recognizing we all have strengths and weaknesses.
What is the purpose in dialogue? It is not to come to an agreement. It is to learn from one another, to seek to understand viewpoints other than your own.
As you comment here, and as you engage anywhere online, please keep in mind these dialogue norms suggestions: