Kindness matters, every time, all the time

Just call me a one-note Johnny. My former college president used this term to describe himself because most of his conversations—no matter where or what they started out being about, ended in the same place. For me, I have three repeat conversations—be kind, build relationships, and send mushy notes–and the more I write and advocate for this trio of behaviors, the more I know repetition never hurts.

Interestingly enough, my three are cousins and are the building blocks and foundation most of us live by. In a recent news article, researchers said not only does kindness matter, but it makes us feel better and may help us live longer. I was happy to get the scientific confirmation, but it really was no surprise or mystery.

If advice columnists Dear Abby and Ann Landers taught me anything – and they’ve taught me plenty over the past 59 or so years since I learned to read – it’s that if you’re feeling down, helping  someone else brightens your day and theirs.

Every time I open a door for others, allow someone to go first in the grocery checkout, affirm or say something nice, it makes me smile. Nowadays with the COVID-19 masks we’re wearing, it’s harder to see a smile and say good morning unless you really mean it because your mouth is covered. I have long been suspicious of folks who smile with their mouths but their eyes don’t show it—wearing a mask makes it nearly impossible to hide behind a perfunctory mouth smile.

My dad had beautiful brown eyes that danced when he smiled and he always looked like he was up to mischief. He usually was but he was a joy to be around because he made up wacky nicknames for the children and loved to “carry on foolishness” as he called it. His “merry heart” was contagious and so were his ever-present acts of kindness.

Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare is right when he said kindness pays and friendliness pays. According to his research, the more friends you have, the more individuals you help, the more successful you are. It makes perfect sense—you can spread happiness, good cheer, and joy to the hinterlands and beyond because doing so eases anxiety and releases hormones that make us feel better.

Today it is more important than ever to plan kindness into our day. Many of us are still isolated and sheltered at home—the perfect time to call and offer a good word to someone you’ve been meaning to be in touch with anyway. Being deliberately kind is more critical than ever during social distancing because some groups have been more deeply affected than others.

Widows and others who live alone have been particularly hard hit because most of us are social creatures and even though we like our privacy, three or four months of limited interaction is tough. Receiving a phone call or a wacky note is a gentle reminder that even though we’re apart, we’re not forgotten.

From the beginning of this piece, you already know how this will end: whether it’s a mushy note, a call to Aunt Florence, baking something warm and yummy for the neighbors, or some other act you can do for your family, friends, or a stranger who needs a helping  hand, do it today while you’re thinking about it.

Being kind is an excellent way to add a few years to your life, on purpose, and understand that kindness begets kindness and it always matters.

I am excited to know how this note about kindness ended for you. Do drop me a line at #drbondhopson on Twitter and Facebook!

Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. Now listen to her new podcast, “Three Stores, Two Cotton Gins, One Remarkable Life: The Journey from There To Here,” and meet her favorite family and friends as they share laughter and heartwarming life lessons. Look for it on this page or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

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