The other day it rained. Which is no big thing where I live. But the rain brought a very common occurrence. Netflix binging!
Feeling like a nice family, heartfelt movie, I put on the new (ish) Cinderella. It’s a really well done wonderful Disney movie with just enough magic and some really emotional love of different kinds. But what really stuck with me about it, is their main quote they use several times during the film.
We must have courage, and be kind.
So simple really. Something we’ve heard about every single day. Kindness and courage. But they way they set up the Cinderella character in this is to approach every situation, no matter how bad she’s been treated, with kindness. That is incredibly hard.
Like I usually do, I took this concept to work. Be kind. Our office is a wonderful place, and we’ve been doing our gratitude every morning for months. We get together for ten minutes and say 3 things we’re grateful for. It’s done wonders in upping the positive atmosphere, and bringing our team together. we know more about each other now than we ever did, and we get to share things that are important to us in a very positive way. And it helps you personally start the day noticing things in your life that are wonderful.
So the kindness project. I walked in, armed with my new Disney lesson of courage and kindness, and decided to do what I could to always spread kindness. I thought the very best way to start was to give some positive feedback to my coworkers. How often to you tell them they’re doing a good job?
My manager was easy. She’s a wonderful, positive and supportive person, and I told her that. She was a little embarrassed, but smiled for the rest of the day every time I saw her. It made me feel good, and I know that it made her feel good. “One kind word can change someone’s entire day.”
But a funny thing happened when I tried to keep this trend going. I chose a colleague, an equal, and just mentioned to her that since she’d been hired (about a month ago), the office had been a much more positive place. She’d replaced someone who had been a real negative influence. She sort of laughed it off and thank me, making a joke. She also seemed more upbeat for the rest of the day. But giving her this positive feedback taught me something about myself.
I was embarrassed to give the compliment.
Wait… what?? Right?? I mean compliments should be natural! We should be able to tell the people around us why they’re awesome without feeling really out of place because of it, shouldn’t we?
I was so struck with this idea that compliments, and in correlation kindness, was foreign to me. Enough so that I felt uncomfortable trying to show a little kindness to those I see every single day. And further, the people I showed kindness too, were so unused to it that they were made embarrassed as well! How absolutely bizarre is that?!
So I created the Kindness Project in our office. Determined to make kindness a normal, respected and very important thing in our day to day lives. Kindness to each other, to our customers, to the warehouse staff. Kindness to the strangers that come in, to those in need.
Of course you can’t just make a big announcement that we’re going to be kind from now on and have it stick. When people are uncomfortable with something, they tend to think it’s stupid, and shy away from participating. It has to happen step by step. Little by little.
A few months ago, there was a mosque in Quebec that was attacked by a shooter. It was a hate crime, and it was awful. Quebec is a long way away from me, but I still felt the impact of that sort of hate. But locally, I read in the newspaper that the mosque in our area was holding an open house to help teach the heavily christian city what they were about. To take away the mystery of their religion, and welcome them through their doors. It was a wonderful gesture. In his interview, he said something that once again, struck me.
“We have more smiles than bullets, more compassion than hate, and more friends than enemies.”
What a calm and honest way to look at a tragedy and not give the person full of hate power. To focus instead on the things that we live every day that will not be affected by this act of hate.
The American situation is a very obvious one to choose right now. I remember when the election happened. Sitting in my friends apartment not saying a word to one another. And then just deciding we had to go on with our lives, because there was nothing we could do. A few very short weeks later, the travel ban happened. I still remember it all with this sort of wide-eyed wonder. How is there so much hate in the world? The protests frightened me at first. I was worried people would get hurt. I felt awful for those trapped away from their families.
Then Obama came back from his well deserved holiday and said something that made me just take a deep breath and smile. He pointed out how great it was to see the american people join together to stand up for something. How unifying it was.
We all wish we lived in a world without hate. At least, I hope we all do! But sometimes the only power we have in this moment is what’s directly around us. My Kindness Project in our office is to try and get us always thinking about kindness and courage so it becomes natural to us once more. And maybe if, like our daily gratitude, it shapes the way we go about our day, it will have a much greater impact than we can imagine.
**I will give updates on the Kindness Project as it continues.