The Legacy Of Acts Of Kindness
Struggling with shoulder and arm pain as I await having a shoulder replacement, I had a hard time finding energy and a legacy topic to write about this month. Then I stopped to reflect about when I feel low-energy and when I feel better; I discovered that my reactions relate to when people act kindly toward me, and when I make the effort to do a kindness for others. Maya Angelou perhaps says it best:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A friend told me the other day about waiting to take a left turn in morning traffic to get to work on time, and how her spirits were lifted all day after someone motioned for her to take her turn while he waited.
On my way to the doctor last week, I passed a pre-school playground, and a little boy came to the fence to show me his dinosaur – kindness and genuine openness flowed from him to me and I felt my spirits soar. Every time I felt low or sorry for myself that day, I visualized his sweet face, and I felt better.
A friend of mine who’s recovering from cancer surgery and chemotherapy called me to see how I was doing, and sent me three warrior angels to accompany me now and through surgery. They’re with me as I write you.
An excerpt from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness”
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing . . . . .
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say ‘It is I you have been looking for,’ and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.”
As I have been reminded in recent days about the power of receiving and doing kindness, I am eager in these difficult times, individually and in larger communities, to pass on kindness as a legacy – in my actions and in my words.
- Take time to muse and reflect about some of your experiences of receiving or giving kindness in 2019. How does that value permeate your life? What is the earliest experience of kindness received that you can remember? Recall a time when you were transformed by consciously doing an act of kindness for someone in your family, a friend, or a stranger.
- How does the value of kindness express itself in your life and legacy?
- Choose a legacy letter recipient – someone with whom you want to share your discoveries about kindness.
- In your letter share what kindness has meant to you at various times in your life, and at the present. And share how you understand kindness as part of your lived and written legacy.
- After you’ve written your letter, reflect again – about how thinking and writing about kindness makes you feel and think about yourself, and how legacy is a natural part of your life.
On his deathbed, Aldous Huxley reflected on his entire life’s learning and then summed it up in seven simple words: “Let us be kinder to one another…”
May you be enriched by giving and receiving kindness every day of your life,
– Rachael Freed
Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters and Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: [email protected], and www.life-legacies.com