Lydia Kearney Carlis, PhD
My whole life, I have been dogged by a losing streak at drawings and raffles, really anything related to “random” “luck” or “chance”. It used to really bother me. I mean, if it were really chance, shouldn’t chances be that I would eventually win something cool?! Nope. Not me.
Then, I started thinking about how anti-random I am, and I had to laugh at myself. I write myself lists to go to the grocery store. I set reminders on my smartwatch to get up and move. I read pages of Yelp reviews to select a restaurant when we’re visiting a new city. I actually put dates with my husband on the calendar. Nope. I am not a believer in random luck, or chance.
And so it is with kindness. Yes, I can see a person standing beside a restaurant who is hungry and buy them a meal. And I should. But, basic human decency as a reaction does not seem like true kindness to me. It’s too random. At one point in my life it may have even been a financial sacrifice, but that is not true today. It’s nice. It’s helpful. It’s unintentional. It’s random. Yes, it fed the person I helped, but I know their next meal is still uncertain or just not coming. I didn’t fix a problem, just maybe placed a too-small bandaid on a gaping wound.
You might be thinking that I’m trying to say that folks should just give up and be jerks! Nope. Not a chance (smile). What I have come to believe in my almost 40 years here on earth is that the thing we can do in life to be the most kind is to use the gifts God has blessed us with for their intended purposes. To be thoughtful. To be generous. To be intentional. To be part of a long-term solution, not just a temporary band-aid.
Happy Orange Project spreads simple acts of kindness, every single day. I love that. Not random. Not unintentional. Simple. I believe that when we are operating as we were intended, when we are doing the work we are called to do, life is simple. Not necessarily easy. Not necessarily exciting every step of the way. But, when you know what you are supposed to be doing, it can not get any simpler than doing just that. We were created for love…community, fellowship, giving and receiving…we were created for kindness.
I think this simple kindness shows up when we are doing the work we were put on earth to do, every single day. That work could be at home with our own kids raising them to embody kindness, standing in a classroom inspiring other people’s children to live their best lives, or carrying the mail that delivers a message of hope to a family in crisis…the possibilities truly are limitless. I don’t think what we do “for a living” is as is important as why and how we live our purpose — kindness (love).
I am the blessed beneficiary of both unintentional and intentional kindnesses daily. Both are welcomed. Both are appreciated. But, the intentional kindnesses tend to have more lasting impact. The intentional kindnesses tend to lead to residual good for me, and leave me in a position to do more good for others. If I know anything about kindness, it is this. True kindness should beget kindness.
Another thing I know is that it is much harder to be the kind person we were created to be when we’re overly stressed and tired. Part of being kind to ourselves is getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising our bodies and minds, working productively, and taking sufficient time to relax and rejuvenate. Kindness begets kindness, so when we start by intentionally being kind to ourselves, we’ll have residual kindness to bestow on others. Kindness literally begins with me. It really is that simple.
Lydia Kearney Carlis, PhD is a DC-based education researcher and photographer. Her education work focuses on ensuring educational equity for students most at risk when schools fail them, and her photography highlights the opportunities afforded through effort and educational excellence. You can visit her photography website at: www.eyemaginationimaging.com