This was not a random act of kindness on her part. I know the main cashiers at the U-scan checkout at our grocery store by name. They know my name, too. One even calls my husband "Mr. Jenna." I have seen pictures of their grand babies and I know about their tough times, and illnesses. Because I have taken the time to cultivate a relationship with them, because I have been kind to them, they do what they can to be kind in return.
I am not advocating being kind because you might get something in return, though sometimes it does work out that way. I am advocating being kind because we all have our struggles. We may look at someone else and think that they have it so easy. We may envy their supportive relatives, their income, their beautiful house, their above average children, or their marriage. It is easy to think that other people have it better than we do, but in the end, we all have challenges in our lives. I also advocate being kind because it is through our kindness that our children experience kindness.
Being kind to everyone includes being kind to our children, our partners, and ourselves. Kindness begins at home. When children live in a world of kindness they internalize being kind, they understand that when someone is kind to you it feels warm and fuzzy, and they understand that when you are kind to someone else you both feel blessed. Children who experience kindness and respect in their homes are more likely treat others they meet with kindness and respect.
If we grew up without consistent kindness in our lives we may struggle with being kind to ourselves. If we verbally berate ourselves in front of our children when we do something wrong this increases the chance that they will do the same thing. If we are critical of the product of our own efforts, a craft project, the dinner we made or our ability to keep the house clean, our children may rightfully assume that we will be critical of their efforts as well. If people in our own childhood did not regularly model kindness we may have to practice being kind until it becomes our first response.
Metta is Buddhist loving-kindness meditation. The practice involves first directing loving-kindness towards yourself and then gradually expanding outward until you are directing loving-kindness towards all living things. Studies show that Metta practice actually changes your brainwaves. It not only boosts positive emotions, it can also improve your health, decrease your pain and help you feel more connected to others. If you are interested in learning more about Loving-kindness meditation Gregory Kramer's "Loving Kindness for Children" is a place to start.
In my life I try to be kind to everyone. Sometimes I fall short, but that's my goal. Be kind to everyone. When we start with being kind to ourselves, we can then expand our kindness outward to our partner, our children, our extended family and eventually to all living things. When we are kind to everyone we strengthen connections and relationships. When we are kind to everyone the blessing of kindness is shared. When I am kind to my children we both benefit, and so might other people who witness the kindness of our interactions.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”