Friday, April 10, 2015

Damian's List: Kindness in Action

There's this guy. I could write a lot about him because I find him very interesting in many ways. We were acquainted, slightly, as teens. Had several friends in common, although we never hung out together at all.

At the time, we were on very different paths, I guess you could say.

We connected again a couple of years ago, on facebook, because it turned out that one of those mutual friends from long ago had MARRIED him.


He's an artist.
He's a person who does not quite fit into the dominant culture. He never has.
He is someone who, back in the day, was considered "from the wrong side of the tracks," a troublemaker, lazy, wouldn't apply himself in school, etc. I am not certain he ever graduated from high school. I know that he had a very hard time in life for years.

Now, I find him to be one of the most interesting, fascinating, deep thinking, considerate, kind, and caring people I know.
I very much look forward to reading what he has to say, because I value his perspective and the care he takes in expressing it.

A few weeks ago, he posted something that I enjoyed, and it got me thinking, so I asked permission to use it as part of a blog post.

He said:

There are a few things that should be said at every opportunity.

"You've always looked good in red."
"I'm sorry."
"Keep the change."
"What a cute baby."
"Of course I could be wrong."
"It's no trouble at all."
"I'll get the check."
"Why don't you come and stay with us."
"Pay me back whenever you can."
"Five o'clock will be fine."
"We'll watch him/her. You two go out and have a good time."
"I'll drive."
"Would anybody like coffee?"
"Just another little slice. I want to save room for dessert."
"Nice dog."
"You've got to give me that recipe."

His point, I believe, is that people should, as part of their daily existence, have a generosity of spirit, and express it whenever they get the chance. That many things that often go unsaid, should be said. 

I agree.
While my list of things might be somewhat different, the SPIRIT is very much the same.

I try to make this part of my daily life. I love giving people positive feedback, giving credit where it is due, reaching out and connecting with people who are typically ignored, helping people, etc.

The best thing about it is that it leaves everyone involved feeling good, most of the time.

The ODD thing about it is the frequency with which people are stunned, as if no one ever compliments them, as if no one ever offers them anything without expecting something in return. The frequency with which a positive comment is met with suspicion is very strange, and very sad, to me.

When I read Damian's list, one of the things that struck me about it is how many of the things on it are pretty much things that ADULTS can say, but children often can't. Children can't, as a rule, offer to pay for things, or offer shelter, or to drive. They often can't make time commitments independently.

However, children very much CAN demonstrate such a generosity of heart and spirit in many ways- and they often do.
Especially if such things are said TO them, and offered TO them.

I find it a good practice to make an effort- still, after all these years- to say honest, positive things to my kids as much as possible.
Not flattery.
Not made up, or to be manipulative.
Simply an outward expression of the love and joy I feel towards and around them.
Showing appreciation for who they are, rather than any attempt to make them be anyone or anything in particular.

My list, to add to Damian's:

"Thank you."
"I really appreciate…"
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Would you like…?"
"You're the best."
"You can go first."
"Let me get take care of that for you."
"I'll get it."
"Don't worry about it."
"I love you."
"That's awesome!"
"Great idea!"
"I'll bring it to you."

Of course, the list could go on forever. Once you are in the habit of looking for and doing or saying the kindest thing, once it is part of you, there is no effort required. Be sure you mean what you say, though, and it isn't just shallow mouthing of words. That's all.

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