Letter: Thoughts on Kindness

To the Editor:

was shopping at Whole Foods last Tuesday. It was dreary weather; my mood and everyone else’s reflected such as I was checking out. It was the standard procedure for a wet November afternoon when I noticed my cashier’s eyeliner was dramatic and stunning. Without a pause, I complimented her, saying I wish I could do my eyeliner like she had. It was just a small comment but she lit up! She explained to me that she’s been trying to do her eyeliner every day, and that practicing her eyeliner made her feel more confident and ready to face the day. She thanked me and encouraged me to practice my eyeliner too, and that I wasn’t far off from having the same as hers. It brightened my day, it brightened her day, and as I was leaving I heard her compliment the purse of the woman who was in line behind me. My cashier just paid the compliment forward. I saw the immediate ripple effect of my one small kindness.

Being kind is the most important way we can better our community, or any community. Luckily, there is no shortage of ways to be kind. In Greenwich, specifically, we can do things like wave at the crossing guard on the Avenue, participate in local events, and let others have the right of way in the Whole Foods parking lot (but realistically let’s just start with participating more at local events). In the broader community of those we interact with, beyond just bettering our community but bettering the those around us, there are nine things we can do to better the lives of our loved ones, and of people who we may not even know.

1. Use your basic manners. Hold doors, please and thank you, smile, hold the elevator, use your turning signal on Greenwich Avenue.

2. When you think a compliment, say it. If you love your friend’s new shoes, let him know. If you love the funky purple hair of the barista at Starbucks, let her know too! It puts a smile on people’s faces and it makes you feel good too.

3. When you can, choose the selfless option. I’m not saying always put others before yourself, but I am saying that you can always find an excuse to not help someone else. Stop for people crossing the street, give spare change to the homeless, Actually listen to people when they’re talking to you, rather than preparing your next point while whomever you’re conversing with is still talking.

4. Donate! Pick up extra food/stuff and drop it off at Neighbor to Neighbor, purchase some extra dog or cat food and drop it off at the animal control center with some old tennis balls. It’s so simple, and so easy. If you’re shopping at Choice Pet in the Whole Foods plaza, just pick up an extra toy and drop it in their donation box on the way out. You don’t have to go crazy, but especially around this time of year it’s an amazing feeling to give back.

5. Laugh more. It is scientifically proven that laughing more improves your health. It lowers your blood pressure, stress levels, and releases endorphins- the happy chemicals. It makes you feel better, and it improves the spirits of those around you. So let loose and laugh

6. Empathize. Practice your skills in empathy. It makes it easier for you to help others. It will help you help your friends, your family, your children, everyone. Most of the time when someone has a problem all the need is someone to listen to them and to empathize.

7. Be patient. This one is important for so many reasons, you have no idea what a person is going through right now, if you can approach a situation with patience you’ll make whatever it is easier for everyone involved.

8. The most obvious, be kind. Just go about your day with kindness in mind, you’ll be surprised what a good day you end up having.

9. The most important, enjoy other’s happiness as though it were your own. Do things for yourself, self-care is very important. But celebrate other’s happiness as well. Not just for them, but for you, the more happiness you choose to let into your life, the brighter you will have the ability to glow.

Not everyone has to adopt these tenants overnight. If it’s a small movement, if it starts out with just one person who adopts even some of these things, that it a giant step in the right direction. If you only make a difference to one person, you have done a profound thing. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite parables, that of the starfish.

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,

“It made a difference for that one.”  ~Loren Eiseley

Emma Barhydt