An excerpt from the book Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart
I woke up in a pissy mood recently, committed to gloom before I had even rolled out of bed. Still grumpy that afternoon, I went to the supermarket, only to be greeted by the sweetest checkout clerk ever. I couldn’t resist her happy eyes and huge smile. We had a quick conversation in Spanish, much of which I didn’t understand, and it didn’t even matter. Her sweetness and enthusiasm completely shifted me out of my pissy mood. I carried her joy with me the rest of the day. Everyone I encountered later that day benefited from her kindness.
It’s too easy to feel lost and powerless, like we can’t make any real difference in this messed-up world. I’ve often become paralyzed by the amount of violence and oppression that exists worldwide, paralyzed by my seeming inability to do anything about it. But we are not powerless to effect positive change. Indeed, we are powerful beyond measure, each one of us, in our ability to treat each other with kindness.
If you want to change lives, then be kind and patient with strangers, be open and generous with your friends and family, and talk to your neighbors — and listen to them, too. Don’t underestimate the extraordinary effect you have every single time you show up to a situation with an open, loving heart. The checkout clerk shifted me out of my funk with her kindness. When my partner, G, got home that night, I greeted him with a smile instead of the scowl he might have gotten because of my foul mood. Our kindness transcends the moment of delivery. It affects more than we can ever know.
That’s how kindness rolls.
Kindness acts as a magnet, by the way, for more of the same in return. When I walk out into the world with an open heart and a smile on my face, I invite smiles and warmth. That doesn’t mean everyone showers me with their love, but more do than when I go out closed down and bitchy. If you don’t believe in the law of attraction, start paying attention to your attitude and to what you attract in different moments. I find there’s almost always a direct correlation. When I’m loving, I attract more love. That’s a good reason to be loving.
Love doesn’t just call on us to be kind in obvious situations, either. Sure, it’s wonderful to hold open the door for a person carrying groceries, but can you open your heart to your partner when he’s pissing you off? It takes no effort to share a loving comment when your friend posts a picture of her baby on Facebook, but can you resist attacking someone online who posts something you disagree with? Can you instead share your point of view without judgment and venom?
I thought myself a kindness king until I had an issue with my cable service recently and had to talk to four different service reps to deal with it. I lost my cool on rep number 2, and things only went downhill from there. I became a self-righteous, angry, impatient asshole. One phone call sent me over the edge.
I want to become so rooted in my kindness that it’s not dependent on the words or actions of others. No matter how they choose to be, I can choose to be kind. That’s power. That’s love. That’s change making. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. Wanna join me?
Let’s start with ourselves.
When we think of kindness, it’s natural, and important, to consider how we can be kinder to others. But what about ourselves? Surely we’re entitled to our own kindness. We benefit most from the love we have to share. With that in mind, how do you treat yourself? Do you offer yourself the same smile you would a loved one? Are you lifting yourself up or tearing yourself down? We have to look at how we talk to ourselves and focus on a kinder inner dialogue.
We don’t live in a world where everyone is sweet to one another. We’re likely to face a good share of assholes out there. At the very least, let’s not be assholes to ourselves.