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  • Susan Natzke-Ingram

How To Start a Fire

Throughout history people have made statements about the importance of kindness. Aristotle defines kindness as “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”. Khalil Gibran, writer and poet, stated that, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention”.

And the novelist Henry James wrote in the early 20th century, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind”.

According to these comments people have held kindness in high regard for a long time. There are also sayings that have become part of our language. Some have come from literature in which kindness is the focus.

Out of the kindness of one’s heart - Performing some deed because of your own selfless concern or goodwill without an ulterior motive. It can also be a negative comment in a sarcastic way.

Kill someone with kindness – To be enormously kind to someone. Also, treating someone too kindly when this is not what they need or want.

Rely on the kindness of strangers - To depend on the generosity of those around us, especially those that we do not know. This refers to the final words of Blanche DuBois, a character in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

Milk of human kindness - A natural sense of compassion and sympathy. This phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Today science can prove the benefits of being kind that affect us in physical ways. There are two hormones, serotonin and oxytocin, that affect our brains and hearts in good ways. Both of these hormones can increase trust and reduce fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Kindness also has a direct link to improving our immune system. The “warm fuzzies” is another term used when we feel those pleasant feelings or responses. Kindness is a simple secret weapon that each of us can use to make our part of this world a little nicer and worth living. Our bit of kindness positively affects others, we feel confident, useful, and in control. We also start feeling more appreciative and optimistic.

We can begin to be kinder by starting with ourselves and practicing self-compassion. Kindness played a part in the healing of my body, mind, and soul once I stopped fighting and decided to be kind to myself. I found that just smiling at the people I met in public, or saying “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to people I spoke to on the phone or the checkout person at the store, boosted my mood. Holding the door open for the person behind me was a simple act that didn’t take more than a second out of my day. It all felt uncomfortable at first, but the more I practiced the easier it became. In turn, those simple actions, I would like to think, put a warmth in their heart or brightened their mood.

I think most of us have heard of practicing random acts of kindness. It makes me think that I’m doing something sneaky to make someone feel good. There is a group of people that put together the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation who’s tagline is “Make Kindness the Norm”. Just imagine how much everyone’s life would be enriched if we made kindness the norm. We have the opportunity on February 17, which has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Day, to reach out of our comfort zone and spread kindness. Some ideas to practice on that day or any other day include the following:

· Create positive bookmarks and hide them at your local library

· Compliment with reckless abandon

· Leave quarters at the laundromat or vending machine

· Set goals for yourself

· Keep calm and kindness on

· Post a positive comment online

· Spend the day making snowmen outside a nursing home

I want to challenge you to add an extra smile, hold the door open, add a compliment, tidy things that are out of place. It takes so little time to step out of yourself to add a spark to someone else’s day. By that simple act, it can add a spark to your day, too. You can start a fire of kindness that will spread beyond your imagination. You might even save someone’s life.

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