What is it? Some are pretty easy to pick out: holding the door for someone behind you, buying the homeless person at the next table a meal at McDonalds, smiling – at a stranger, talking with someone who needs an ear…when you’re really hungry!
Oddly enough, kindness isn’t always about giving. It can also be about receiving. Maybe it’s just our society, but it seems we have trouble accepting compliments and gifts (except at Christmas when they’re required). When someone gives you a gift, don’t protest, don’t try to refuse, etc. Allow them the pleasure of giving that you enjoy. Allow yourself to be tended to, even if you don’t need it.
If someone without much wants to buy you a burger when, financially-speaking, YOU should treat them, maybe you give them the dignity of treating you.
Sometimes kindness is a 2×4 planted between your eyes. But in a good way. I’m thinking of a prof I had in undergraduate; Mrs. Bacon. Always classy, perfectly groomed, and never took prisoners, if you catch my drift. I had a problem with…how I did some things. I was a regular doing it. One day she sat me down in her office and began an innocent-seeming conversation. She led me right into her trap, sprung it, and emotional split my lip and gave me a black eye. She never broke that smile, never got mean about it. But she fixed my problem. Sometimes a good thrashing is a kindness.
I yelled at a nephew once who wanted to help me. I told him what I needed, but he did something else that was a more attractive and helpful task…in his eyes. It was actually destructive. I told him that if you really want to help someone, you give them the help they need, not just what you want to give.
That, I think, is real kindness. Not always warm and fuzzy, but always appropriate.