I’ve been thinking. I know what you’re thinking. Uh, oh! He’s at it again.
But before we get to it, let me make a confession. I’m not good at it. I hope you’re better at it than me. Really, I do. Being kind, I mean.
As I write, it’s Christmas Eve. Hanukkah (yeah, try spelling it without spellcheck) has just passed. The New Year is about to begin. If you’re like me, you’re at the end of the excited misery of parties and shopping and work. Some of you are starting to worry about the credit card bills that will be showing up in your mailbox in a few weeks. Some of you are breathing a sigh of relief from a difficult year. Still others of you are planning to write your resolutions for 2016, knowing that this year will be different. You will lose that weight, get on a budget or read those books that have sitting on your shelf for months.
But maybe its time for some genuine introspection, some reflection about how the world is and what part you and I play in it. Maybe it’s time to recognize you have within you the power to change your little corner of the world. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is simple. Maybe you can have the chance to offer something only you can give. Maybe its time to stop writing your own story about all the hurt and pain and injustice in the world and just be kind(er).
In this season of giving (“me likey”) and getting (“me likey too!”) stuff perhaps we can actually get off our high horse of judgment of one another, politicians, different faiths or the absence of it, and step down off the throne on which we have crowned ourselves arbiter of all that is good and right and true. I’m not suggesting we give up our principles, just add a little bit of grace to them. I’m not suggesting we can all hold hands and sing “kumbaya” or “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” and we’ll all be drinking Coke (diet coke?) together. I’m just challenging myself to actually do unto others as you would have them do to you. Be kind to other people and to yourself.
I like it when people smile at me. Smiling’s my favorite. Me and Buddy the Elf have that in common. I’m grateful when people hold open a door. I appreciate it when people actually listen to my side in a disagreement. It means a lot when someone notices I let them into traffic or when someone looks me in the eye and says thank-you or writes me a note of encouragement. I think it was Mark Twain who said “I can go a whole month on one good compliment.” (If he didn’t he should have.) When someone asks me how I’m doing and digs in enough to make me uncomfortable with my “fine,” I’m grateful for their concern. When someone remembers my birthday or writes me a note to say they appreciate something I’ve done for them…well, the list goes on.
While I’m quoting people, let me show off a little and act like I’m really a vast repository of wisdom. Shunryu Suzuki, the Buddhist teacher, said “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the experts there are few.” (Wow. He’s deep. Me that is…you know, for quoting him.) I suspect most of us think we are experts, that we know the answer to just about everything, how people should behave and what will solve the world’s problems. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. I had all the answers when I was 25. I had even more when I was 35. But knowing everything isn’t all its cracked up to be. Its exhausting to know everything, to try and set the world and everyone in it straight. It’s far more peaceful to live with the knowledge I might be wrong. (But I’m not. Okay, just kidding. Just trying to keep you on you awake.)
I can still be a realist. I can acknowledge the world has problems, that people misjudge me or or mistreat me, and that I really should be one the cover of People Magazine as The World’s Sexiest Man (pause for laughter, finger pointing, and dismay), and still be kind(er). I know I’m not going to be perfect. I want more than a couple of “do overs.” I can be a better man. But I can make my little corner of the world a little gentler, a little safer, a little more joyful. If you see me on the street I hope I’m smiling. If I don’t do me a solid. Toss me one.
Oh, yeah. One more thing about being kind to yourself. If you don’t read the books, lose the weight, get on the budget, or fail to succeed at other New Year’s resolutions, that’s okay. Be kind to yourself. You’re not done yet.