Most Januaries are for a plethora of resolutions that don’t normally survive the spring thaw. But here is one that might work and improve your life if no one else’s: do one kind thing every day this year.
I know, I know, imploring people to be kind to each other is for hippies, religious folk and other delusional softies. But hear me out. Doing your best to be kind to people will help you out and make your life better. You’ll be happier with yourself.
Of course you shouldn’t be overly deferential or fall into the trap of pathological altruism, the legions of self-flagellating bleeding hearts are giving kindness a bad name. But a little bit of human decency goes a long way in today’s world.
Don’t be afraid to be kind in fear of it rendering you soft or foolish. Real kindness won’t make you weak. Being kind and humane is in fact a sign of strength.
The truly hard people in the world don’t need to be mean to people, they live the hard life when it counts and don’t have anything to prove. I’ve met armed forces veterans who have killed people in battle, I’ve met former I.R.A. bombers and others who did hard time in prison and I’ve met drug dealers with visible bullet wound scars on their bodies. All of them were nice and pleasant to speak with. They knew who they were and didn’t need to put on a tough guy act.
The person who made the best case for showing kindness on a daily basis was a former Marine who had seen some of the most horrific famine and violence in Somalia. He suggested giving two compliments a day to people and have at least several acts of kindness or generosity in your recent memory when you go to bed at night. I’ve heard the spiel about being nice and paying compliments to people from a lot of sources, but his talk was the one that remains fresh in my mind. I knew he had seen some of the worst the world has to offer, and the Marine Corps is the only institution in the world where it’s a compliment to be called a “jarhead.”
This Marine understood something that is easily lost in our world of cyber communication and online anonymous hate. Human beings have an ingrained need to keep a check on their own humanity. We are social creatures. For all of our individualist motivation, the people who actually do live without connections to other human beings wind up living like a scrambled mess. Simple acts of kindness to other people reassure us that we are still able to function in the world.
In New York, citizens of the Big Apple relish the tough reputation of our city, but also cherish the opportunity to help tourists and strangers where appropriate. Our love of the city motivates us to help others enjoy it and navigate its many quirks.
Be kind this year. You’ll be better for it.