Note: I originally wrote this blog in November of 2008. My grandmother has since passed, but she demonstrated kindness to all in her Village. Just a good reminder in honor of World Kindness Week.
“Hello, this is my daughter and my granddaughter.”
“Hi, have you met my daughter and my granddaughter?”
My grandmother always makes a point of introducing my mother and me to everyone she knows when we eat with her at The Village; a retirement center where she resides.
At 94 my grandmother continually amazes me at how many people she knows by name and how warmly she extends friendship and kindness to everyone she meets.
Sometimes when I go there, I feel sad. Sad to see some people eating alone and I wonder about their lives and hope they have family coming to visit as well.
I recognize that much of this sadness is a projection of my own fears about the future for myself and my family members.
But as I sit with my grandmother my perspective shifts and I see a community of people reaching out and connecting to one another.
People smile and greet one another in passing.
They make plans to share rides or catch the bus together.
They take time to talk, inquire about others or play together!
Bottom line they do two things:
1. They recognize each person whether known to them or not as a part of their community.
2. They communicate this recognition with a greeting or smile.
Essentially their actions say to one another, “The human in me acknowledges and sees the human in you.”
These behaviors enrich and add love to life, and as a result, they release fear-based reactive emotions.
We live in a world with many uncertainties.
It is common to feel a desire to retreat when an uncertain situation arises, but this desire to retreat is a reactive behavior based in fear.
As we move forward in our personal and professional lives we will address and overcome fears about the future uncertainties, by emulating the behaviors, I witnessed by my grandmother and her community.
Your family, the place you work, your neighborhood is a small community.
How do you interact with your community? Do you pull back or engage?
I entered a business one time to facilitate a conflict resolution workshop and learned a lot just walking in the door.
No greetings were offered, little eye contact was made, there was a deafening silence in the room, and some were openly resistant to my presence. There was no sense of community within this group.
Individuals had become so polarized in their viewpoints, and afraid others views would diminish their own that they had shut down and completely retreated into themselves and their own inner worlds of fear.
This type of behavior happens every day in small communities as well as on the global arena. No problems can be solved in this space because there is no engagement or dialogue.
But here is something interesting to consider…. in all the facilitation work I have done, I have noticed at some point, with no push from me, a group will naturally lead the discussion towards what unites them.
It is as if they know at an instinctive level that the solutions to the problems lie in their unification, not their division.
This is what I witnessed when I visited my grandmother at The Village. Instinctively these people reached out to one another regardless of their physical conditions, political affiliation, economic situation, etc.
They chose to see what they have in common; they chose to see the humanness within and be kind to one another.
Commit yourself to connect more with the communities you live and work.
Start by choosing a simple behavior like greeting all people you see for one week.
Or pick any way you like to contribute to building stronger community connections within the personal and professional circles you travel and see what happens.
Check out my Facebook Live Video on Kindness!