Kindness is a superpower
May was Mental Health Month. Hopefully, that does not mean that we don’t pay attention to mental health in the other months, but May was designated as the month to draw awareness to the importance of mental health.
I am a strong advocate for breaking the divide between physical health and mental health and merging these two together so that mental health is as easily spoken about and accepted to speak about as physical health.
Several agencies came together to encourage students and the community to recognize the impact kindness plays in someone’s mental health. The fascinating thing here is that kindness can have as much of an impact on the person being kind as on the person receiving kindness.
When you do a kind deed or say kind words to someone, does it make you feel good? It definitely has a positive effect on your own mental health and your own personal view of self. The person receiving the kind deed or words also has an inflated sense of happiness directed at the fact that someone recognized his or her presence and did or said something that positively impacted this person. It is a win-win situation.
What prevents kindness? I believe we live in a world where the focus is on “what can you do for me?,” as opposed to “what can I do for you?” We are busy in our own world, glued to our gadgets, and thinking of the next thing to cross off our list. We forget about the person standing on the elevator with us as we look up and watch the numbers drop or raise in the awkward silence that fills the elevator. We sit next to someone without acknowledging they exist. We walk down the street, not making eye contact but looking at our phone as if something on there is so much more important than looking at someone and saying “hi.”
It takes but a minute to acknowledge someone, to ask how they are, to comment on something they have on or something you observe, or to tell them to have a nice day. You honestly do not know when something so small could be the thing that saved someone’s life that particular day.
The area elementary schools participated in a coloring page of the hamster Humphrey. They were asked what acts of kindness could they do around their school or community.
Here are some responses from students from Youngsville, Eisenhower, Sheffield,
* This month I’m going to hold the door for people;
* I will pick up trash when I see it;
* I will give someone a compliment each day at home;
* I will help push my friend’s wheelchair;
* I will ask someone who is alone to eat lunch with me;
* I will invite someone to play with me;
* If someone drops something I will pick it up;
* I will be kind to all people;
* I will smile at 3 people in one day and I will ask 3 different people how they are doing;
* I will help pick up messes that aren’t mine;
* I will help my neighbor take her groceries into her house;
* I will help my mom at home;
* I will say “hi” to the lunch lady when she gives me my food.
The middle school and high school students were asked to write kind comments or words on sticky notes and put them on a Kindness Board provided to each school. Here are some of the comments from students at Youngsville, Eisenhower, Sheffield, and Warren:
* Love yourself;
* Throw kindness around like confetti;
* Don’t be mean to someone just because your friends are, be the change;
* The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions–Confucius;
* Take a minute and tell someone that you appreciate them and value their friendship. Don’t take things for granted in life;
* Be careful and protective of others;
* Don’t let the world change your smile, let your smile change the world;
* Be known for your kindness and grace;
* You mean something;
* No matter what anyone says, you are beautiful and you are worth it;
* Be the reason someone smiles;
* Love who you are;
* We rise by lifting others;
* Be the kind one;
* You never know how BIG one small act of kindness can be to someone who needs it;
* You are important.
In addition, the D.A.’s office made a kindness poster encouraging random acts of kindness and put it on the door going into their office. The Plaza made a sign at checkout that encouraged everyone to spread smiles, and Warren Pediatrics participated by having a section of their waiting room designated for kids to color kindness pictures and write how they were kind today.
My wish and hope are that what this community, through businesses and its youth, were able to come up with respect to random acts of kindness and words of kindness will continue for months to come. I hope that we, as adults, will learn from the comments listed above from our youth and that we will be more observant of those around us and will acknowledge people with whom we come in contact.
We never know what a simple kind gesture or word can do for someone else going through something nobody knows of. A smile, a touch, a “nice to see you” can remind someone that they are not invisible and that they matter. It can also remind you of the power you have in being kind and will definitely make your day a little better.
Kindness is a superpower that you can use every day.
Kari Swanson is a Master’s level clinician with 25 years of working in the mental health field. She is the founder of CORE–Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences which is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide mental health awareness and suicide prevention education to Warren County.