21 Days of Kindness
I said yes to a 21 Days of Kindness Challenge. I almost declined. Kindness? I am a kind person. How is that challenging? However, I gave it some thought, and I realized there is something here for me to take hold. I looked up the meanings and synonyms of kindness to get a better grip of the idea. What I found was that the qualities that define kindness- friendliness, generosity, and the consideration of others- are not qualities that I emanate every single day.
I am a nice person, but to make the next three weeks meaningful, I needed to be intentionally kind. I knew I had room to grow here. When I get insecure I tend to act aloof. The more disconnected I become, the less harm can be done to me. This is a false advertisement of how I feel, because my real desire is to connect. I actually want to be warm and inviting. The offering of my kindness to another person should not be contingent on my mood that given day. This should always be felt in my presence — walking into a room for instance. If I don’t make eye contact with who I walk by, if I’m looking down at my phone— even if I am happy on the inside, it can give the opposite impression I would actually like to give, because I am disconnected.
At the end of this, I wanted the people around me to feel seen, heard, and chosen.
I decided to choose who I would lavish kindness on each day. This was not a passive challenge for me. It’s a whole hearted effort. If I choose to do something, I do it with the intent to make as much impact as possible. I began asking God to put a person on my mind to intentionally show kindness toward each day. I knew I had to be specific in order to see movement from myself.
My personal goal was to cultivate tenderness. I have found that my empathy and compassion for others no longer reach the depths they once did. Often in my busy life I get caught up in my mission (what I want to do now) that I forget my vision (what I want to be in the future). My day to day work is checking off lists, meeting goals, and solving problems. Where as my vision is to impact the world around me and to activate people in their strengths and greatest potential. I understand that I have to slow down in moments of opportunity. I have to be willing to reveal my softness. When the 21 days were over, my hope was to see layers of my heart I had forgotten, open up. Ultimately, I love people, and that is my greatest mission.
I can’t wake up one day and expect to change to world, it’s an everyday kind of work. Loving the one person in front of you kind of process.
My kindness took the form of encouragement or generosity. I began giving people things that were valuable to me. I used connections that I had to bless people. I reached out to people I haven’t talked to in a while to show them I remember. I wrote a message of gratitude to my manager. I told my boss I needed his help, and asked for mentorship. I ran a race, and passed 31 people along the way. As I did I told them, them they were doing a great job. I told a guy I think is cool that he would be missed if he wasn’t around. I was warm to someone that made me feel nervous and insecure. I made time to hang out a with a girl that I don’t know well, but looks up to me. I listened to people’s stories with the intention of understanding. I gave my time, my heart, my resources. That’s it— Kindness is giving in the midst of your inconvenience. It’s a mindful choice.
Instead of being the thermometer, I was the thermostat. I created the temperature of the room.
I wanted to influence my environment with positivity. It didn’t matter how they initially made me feel— I was going to make them feel good. I wanted to leave people with a feeling like a woman with sweet perfume who walks past you: all kinds of good. My manager approached me at work and told me, “You are showing up so powerfully. Everyone that comes in is feeling so loved and seen.” That’s some pretty cool feedback. Here’s what’s interesting: I had thought I was always this way. I thought I was a naturally kind person, so people should get that feeling all the time. I realized you can have a hope, or you can have an intention. The difference: one delivers. What started as a challenge of 21 days of kindness has now become my daily filter. My purpose. My end goal. It has become normal, elevating my quality of life.
I recently had a difficult day. Emotions were high, and I was at a low. I thought about how there must have been a lot of people I know who were having a hard day too. I decided to share an Instagram story, asking anyone that was going through a hard time to reach out. They didn’t have to tell me what was going on if they didn’t want to, but I wanted to encourage them if I were given the chance. I knew if I wasn’t so introspective in my pain, I could get out. Kind of like how giving is often more fulfilling that receiving.
I knew if I could encourage other people, not only could I relate to their pain, but the extension of kindness would lead me to joy.
So I dare you: pay it forward. Buy a stranger coffee, or map out a week of kindness towards your co-workers. The best part about kindness is that it’s creative. There are no limits. If we were to be bold in kindness, I think we can quite possibly flip the world upside down. If we took the time to get out of our heads, our routines just a little bit— we can impact the way people feel, respond and act. Not only will your intentional kindness deepen your relationships, it will enrich your own life.
Author: Naomi Newton | @naomi_newton
Featured image via The Weaver House