This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it has the things that I feel like could be most helpful to you. Each is something I’ve learned and act on every single day, I’m not perfect and am certainly no expert in this crazy thing called life, but again, I wanted to share them with you.
Always thank people for their kindness…
Whether it’s a birthday gift which always gets a written thank-you note, or because someone saved you a seat at church or held the door open for you when your hands were full, always take the time to thank those that are kind to you. Always. Always. Always. People don’t have to be kind to you or me, but they are and that’s incredible. It should be acknowledged, and be genuine about it. No one needs a half-hearted anything.
… and tell them “Happy Birthday!”.
In person, by phone, or text, or on Facebook (oh man so cheesy), but seriously birthdays are important to acknowledge (even on social media). Congratulate someone just because they were born, they deserve it! What better way to inject some kindness into the world than with a simple Happy Birthday text or message on Facebook? It’s so easy.
Ask others how they’re doing…
I can’t tell you how many times a barista, cashier, salesperson, or whoever has been genuinely grateful that when they asked me how I was doing, I responded by looking them in the eyes and asking them back. I always appreciated it when I was working in retail. Whether they respond positively or couldn’t care less, it’s such a small action that can really just add more kindness into the world. What better reason is there than that?
…and use their names.
In the same vein as the above, always use their names. If it’s a barista, read their nametag. If it’s a server, they’ll usually say their name at the beginning of your meal, so listen up! It breathes a little bit of humanity back into interactions that require a sort-of weird servant-master dynamic, which when abused (I’ve seen this) is absolutely horrendous. Knowing their name and using it allows for a more enjoyable dynamic and helps keep things from reaching a rude level. More than anything, like the above, it’s a small action that brings kindness into the world. That’s reason enough.
Be kind to yourself.
This is a lesson my mother taught me a couple of years ago during a particularly trying time, and I’ve recited it to more than a few friends since. NEWSFLASH: I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, we’re human and sometimes that means things can become hard. It’s so so so important that we’re kind to ourselves. That means you have to give yourself permission to sometimes play hooky, eat a little too much junk food, get some sleep, take a vacation, book a massage. For me, that means a night off from all of my commitments and away from the gym. Usually it looks like me curled up on the couch with a salmon burrito watching a documentary. Sophisticated, I know.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch (i.e. have no expectations).
The definition of expectation is: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caused problems for myself just because I expected something. I’ve said this chicken-hatch saying to myself so many times in the last year, and have also had better vacations, adventures that became spontaneous, better time at work, better dates, better interactions with those I love, better interactions with those I serve. This is not the same as hope though. I have hope and trust that what’s supposed to happen will, in all things, but I can’t possibly know how it’ll manifest itself in my life. So, in having no expectations I’m able to accept things as they come, relish in the unexpected pleasantness of it all, and be completely and unabashedly present for every incredible moment of it.
People will never think or behave exactly like you do.
So stop trying to make them! This is kind of in line with the expectation one, because it’s easy to expect others to behave exactly as you would in any given situation, and that’s simply not fair to you and not fair to them. For one thing, I love that my friends are not me. Life is more colorful that way and I can learn so much from the non-carbon-copies in my life. Sure it would be nice if I could anticipate how my friends would behave sometimes, but that’s not how life works. We’ve all been created as wholly different as every other wholly different person on this planet. I’d never want it to be any other way, so why act in a way that says otherwise?
Run to the fire.
I will always run to the fire rather than away from it. By “fire”, I mean conflict, tough conversations, heartache, loneliness, pain, tragedy, general hardships, and even little things I don’t always enjoy, like laundry and running sometimes. I’m a supportive and loyal person by nature, and am generally decisive too. But in the last few years I’ve really developed an automatic response to hit problems or trials head on. It’s partly because I’ve been alive long enough to know that problems don’t go away if you just ignore them, and it’s easier in the long run to address trouble exactly when it crosses your path rather than wait for it to attack you from behind.
There will most likely be more posts like this. Thank you for reading, seriously!
The Square Peg