By Jennifer Richardson
I was the third child, born in one of those small town hospitals that have all but faded from America’s landscape. I was taken home to join my two older siblings, and three more children joined the family in quick succession. We were blessed to be brought up in a home that was filled with visible kindness.
My parents didn’t hold formal classes on the subject of kindness, they simply lived their ideals and took us with them to watch and learn.
They were a great example in everyday life. They opened doors, carried things, helped people move, befriended the friendless, and had endless dinner guests. They gave with little regard for how large or small their resources were at the moment. And they expected their children to help right along with them.
On Sundays my parents frequently took all six of their children to the local nursing home where we visited residents, sang to them, and generally tried to make life a bit less lonely for those who lived there. I can clearly remember an older woman I did not know, who sat and gently stroked my cheek and talked about the grand-daughter she never saw anymore.
We helped people with yard work; we brought dinners to families in need. All of the children had nights they were expected to cook, and those that were not cooking were helping with cleanup. We were expected to be around the family table each night to share food, conversation, and our lives with each other and our guests.
I can remember holiday dinners in which my parents went up and down their street checking for people who didn’t have anywhere else to go. They opened our home to those who would otherwise have been alone. These were interesting years, and it was always an experience to meet the people who ended up around our table.
To this day they continue to share their lives and their home with others. They have touched many lives in many ways, but two things they did impacted me greatly; they lived their ideals for us to see, and they expected the people they loved to join them.
Today I am a true believer in kindness, and service—because the people who cared for me took me with them as they lived a life of kindness and service.
They taught me to practice intentional kindness in so many ways. Forgive a hurt. Ask for forgiveness. Offer a ride. Give a compliment. Do the dishes. Clean up someone else’s mess. Send a thank you note. Offer your seat. Make someone dinner. Say I love you.
Volunteer your time. Give money to someone who needs it more than you do. Thank someone who has helped you. Hug someone who is grieving. Overlook someone’s mistake.
Let a friend win the argument. Thank someone who has touched your life. Pray with someone who is hurting. Buy groceries for a family in need. Speak with someone that is always alone. Pay for dinner. Give someone your place in line. Give a gift to someone who can never repay you.
I know from my own life with my parents that how we live impacts the lives around us—much more than what we say. As we commit to kindness, taking others with us passes the torch and extends the warmth to all within reach.
By definition kindness is about more than self; it reaches out to others. And kindness is better caught than taught. Every one of us has a circle of people we influence. Let a friend, a child, a family member, a stranger, see you live your ideals.
Make kindness and care for humanity visible in your life; I can say from my heart it will change you and those who see you.