I read with interest about the unveiling of a new institute at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). In a first-of-its-kind initiative, this institute aims to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies through the study of actions, thoughts, feelings and social establishments associated with kindness. The institute seeks to be an antidote in the midst of violence and strife in today’s world.
This is one quality that we imbibe unconsciously as we see our parents or others demonstrating this through word or deed. We have all witnessed the long-term impact of kindness, recalling with great clarity instances of people being kind to us for no particular reason and strengthening our feelings of well-being.
For some time now, kindness has been making its way into the classroom as a subject. The University of Wisconsin has a Center for Healthy Minds and Yale University conducts a very popular class on happiness, handing out weekly assignments to its students that include performing acts of kindness.
I still remember the rather overwhelming experience of arriving in a new country, far away from home, and being greeted with a warm smile and a “welcome to the workplace” by a colleague who stood out for me in that sea of unfamiliar faces
In this fast-paced world, kindness has taken a back seat to self-interest. In fact, we have become suspicious of kind acts, always looking for an ulterior motive when someone does something thoughtful. All of us thrive on kindness. A kind act such as someone holding a door open for you can help start your day on the right note. Simple gestures such as saying “thank you” and “please” or even a smile make a difference.
The best part about kindness is that it benefits those who dispense goodwill as it makes the person who shows kindness feel happy and actually helps reduce blood pressure. Random acts of kindness are a hot topic in science and psychology today.
Studies have proved that the act of giving is good for both the giver and the recipient. World Kindness Day is observed on November 13, but you don’t need to wait for a particular day to spread happiness. Data from experiments involving participants performing acts of kindness every day for a specific period of time showed that the experience of being nice to people impacts societies.
And now there are kindness walls across the globe. They are an interactive way for people to declare their intention to authentically give and receive kindness.
Since its recent launch, the kindness.org community of more than 175,000 members has performed 55,000 acts of kindness. The global non-profit organisation, with roots in London and New York City, believes that kindness is an essential ingredient to bring about social change.
I still remember the rather overwhelming experience of arriving in a new country, far away from home, and being greeted with a warm smile and a “welcome to the workplace” by a colleague who stood out for me in that sea of unfamiliar faces. It was a small gesture, but much appreciated at a time when I was assailed by doubt over my decision to relocate to a place where I knew no one.
I find it strange that I can clearly remember this greeting even though I might have forgotten many other momentous happenings during that life-changing phase of my life.
We rarely realise the long-term impact of thoughtful words or deeds. Yet, it is these that remain a source of inspiration to others.
We read heart-warming stories of individuals reaching out to others in need of comfort or help. There’s Andrew Dunn, from Kentucky, who founded a movement encouraging his city of Louisville to practise random acts of kindness, Six years later, Dunn is still going strong with food drives for low-income areas.
In the words of Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.
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