Joining the Kindness Project

Jane LaFazio is a watercolor- and mixed media artist whom I admire a lot. I’m taking an online class from her right now, because I love her style and need some deep-rooted inspiration. What I get from Jane is that everything she does comes from her heart. She knows how to make meaning out of a turnip.

Jane invited me to join the Kindness Project. On the first Sunday of the month, (Jane asked me when my Sunday post was already up, so don’t adjust your calendar) you post a few of the kind things you’ve done since last month. Sort of like an examination of conscience (do Catholics still do that? It’s been a long time since 7th grade), but for kindnesses you have done.

I love the idea. Kindness is not easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But when you start to list the kind things you have done, you begin to think about kindness more. And when you think of kindness, you look for it. And when you look for kindness, you find it. And when you find it, you pass it on. And only good can come from that.

Maybe you can’t force peace in the Middle East. Maybe you can’t get everyone to turn their backs on nuclear weapons, maybe you can’t even get that annoying co-worker to stop her passive-aggressive whining. But you can be kind. That’s what I love about Jane’s idea. It’s not complicated. And kindness, like a stone dropped into a pond, ripples outward. It rippled to me, and you can pass it on.

Here are a few ways that you can pass on kindness in a way that’s easy, free and heart-nurturing. I tried ‘em all, so I know they work:

— I’m standing in line at the post office. It’s a long line. I need one stamp. The woman behind me has three packages and a fussy baby. The baby smells poopy, like babies will do. It’s stuffy and hot in the post office. I let the lady get ahead of me in line. She has enough problems already. She does not thank me. I control myself so I do not long for that recognition.

—Same day, same post office, same line. I get to the window and ask to buy a sheet of stamps. “You have to go to the wall and choose the stamps,” snaps the postal worker. “Any kind is fine with me,” I reply.
“No,” says the postal worker, “You have to choose from the wall–pointing to the wall 20 feet away. “And then get back in line.”
“Anything you have is fine with me. Really,” I say, smiling.
“Next!” says the postal worker.
I leave the post office and buy a roll of stamps at the grocery store. I do not wish that the woman’s head would explode. I do not wish that she wets herself and her shoes fill up with urine. This takes some effort on my part to work out, as I have an active imagination. I choose to believe that she is having a horrible day, and the antidote to not being able to control your work life is controlling the customer. I am grateful that I know tonglin, as it is very useful in times like this.

—Drug store. Check out counter. The clerk scans my purchases and ask if I want to voluntarily send a candy bar to “a boy in the service.” I wonder if only “boys” get the candy and women warfighters don’t. I wonder what happens to the soldiers who are diabetic. “No thanks, ” I say simply. It’s not the clerk’s fault. Each one is required to ask, and I bet they get a lot of snappy answers.

—I’m teaching my workshop for the under-served. It’s a hard workshop with lots of administrative work. I stay in the classroom at breaks and lunch to do the administrative work. Often, participants ask me questions instead. Or just tell me the sad stories of their confusion and anger.  At the end of the day I’m worn down from being on all day. A student asks if he can talk to me. I fantasize changing out of my heels and sitting down. “Sure,” I say. He tells me his complicated, unsolvable problems. I do not try to fix him, or his problems. I cannot. I listen. I am empathetic. I hand him a gift card for the nearby grocery store. I carry them with me for just such a purpose. It will feed him and his family for today. Sometimes that’s all I can do. It may be his only chance at a meal for the rest of the week.

Most of the time, our first reaction is one of anger. We live in a world triggered by fear. Kindness is in short supply. Drop that stone into the pond. Watch the ripples. Report back. Or just watch the ripples spread. It feels good.

Quinn McDonald knows that kindness takes work. But she feels slim and light on her feet when she is kind. That alone is worth it.

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25 responses to “Joining the Kindness Project

  1. Beautiful. It immediately drew me back to a little kerfuffle I got into yesterday with my 4-year-old granddaughter. I was babysitting her, and she was acting out, and I must confess, I got pretty angry, and I snapped at her. She went in her room and slammed the door, and was tossing stuff around. Long story short, we were both pretty angry, and, well, I was behaving like a 4-year-old myself. But I got her to come out, and I apologized to her, and by the time we finished our discussion about being angry and how bad it made us feel, we were both in tears, but we were ok together again. Somehow, doing that–apologizing, I mean, is something it never occurred to me to do when my daughter was 4, but it’s really a two-way street. So breathing in the anger and breathing out the love is vital.

  2. I am teaching my young daughters Bible verses, and we are currently learning and reflecting on a verse from Ephesians that reminds us to “be kind and compassionate to one another.” We have been having LOTS of conversations about what it means to be kind and compassionate, and what that looks like in the lives of a three- and four-year old. It is a great reminder to me at the same time. In so many of the stories you tell here, I would have a very hard time exhibiting the self-control to be kind…unless my children were with me, since I would be considering my example to them. The Kindness Project is a great idea…something we could all benefit from!

    • Kids are such good reminders to give good example, aren’t they? I have to marshall a lot of of self control often–but the truth is, I feel sick when I lose my temper and yell. It doesn’t make me feel better to “let it all out.” And I think that’s a good thing. My hugs to you to dealing with a 3- and 4-year old. You must be running in opposite directions all the time!

      • I had to come back and look at this again today, because I lost my cool this afternoon over potty training issues. Oh, what a hot button topic that is for me!! I so wish I could have more patience. I really need to work on reacting from a place of kindness. Why do I keep acting like these accidents are on purpose?? React from a place of kindness will be my mantra!!!

  3. My word for this year is, in its many forms, inspiration. Sometimes I wonder why that word popped into my head and stuck and then I forget it for days and days. Today I found this site and remembered why I chose the word – you have inspired me quite a lot over the last while since I found Raw Art Journaling and today this post – thank you.

    • I’m so glad I can inspire you and keep the word flowing through your life. I’m glad you like the book. It’s so important to work creatively and deliberately, because it’s such a great way to solve problems and heal hurts.

  4. I love this post and that Jane started her monthly project, thanks for sharing it.

    I’ve been doing this my whole life and didn’t think much of it until several years ago when I stumbled upon the 29 Gifts project (it’s also the title of a wonderful book by Cami Walker who started the project and online community). I realized how many little “gifts” or kindnesses are given daily without even thinking about it. Holding a door, smiling and looking someone in the eye, wishing someone a good day. Remembering a clerk’s name and using it, even just saying thank you to people. Offering someone a seat, buying a package of cookies and giving them to the grooming staff when you pick up your pet. Sharing a great recipe you find with friends who you know will enjoy it. Sharing extra produce or fruit from your trees with neighbors and friends.

    I give out candy canes around the holidays to waitresses, cashiers, clerks, greeters, hosts/hostesses, receptionists, etc.. who wait on me throughout the year. I write messages like thank you, have a beautiful day, your smile brightens the world, you are appreciated, etc.on colored card stock, sometimes punched in a shape that goes with the time of year and often leave them in places for other people to find or slip them to the person with my payment or hand them to someone who has just had to deal with a rude person. I fill out comment cards in stores and restaurants complimenting employees who do a good job, especially when I see them trying hard to be pleasant when dealing with rude customers over and over and still smiling when they get to me in line. If I happen to see the manager, I will often let them know about employees doing a good job. I figure they hear enough of the bad stuff and never enough of the good stuff.
    Recently, I was at lunch alone and practicing sketching on a few ATC’s and the waitress asked to see what I was doing and I explained about ATC’s. She complimented me and made my day when she called me a talented artist! I wrote her name on the card she liked and signed it and left it with my payment. She came after me and hugged me and said she would keep it forever and that it was the nicest thing anyone had done! I have no doubt that she smiled as much as I did for the rest of that day!

    It’s great that so many projects like this are popping up on blogs and spreading around the world and it’s fun to read all of the things people are doing.
    Sorry this was so long!

    • I’ve hung out with you, and you brighten up the whole world! Every time you step in to a store or restaurant, everyone knows you and hugs you. It’s a joy to see!

  5. I love learning new things from you and tonglin is a new word for me. I can relate to your stories of being kind and not receiving a thanks, but it doesnt happen often. :-) Thanks for sharing best wishes to you. :-)

  6. I love reading your anecdotes — especially the ones that don’t turn out “perfecly.”

  7. A kindness can be much appreciated. It does not need to be a big involved time consuming event, or planned or difficult and sacrificing. it can be as simple as a genuine smile,a hello how are you, an open a door, even the worn out have a good day is truly a lovely sentiment, when said and meant. Adding tiny bits of kindness in our lives and worlds would go a long ways to making a nicer place.not that big kindmesses arent surely appreciated,but a life lived with kindmess in mind, what can I do as a kindness — think small– to everyone I meet today. wow, it could get big!!!!! ALL THOSE LITTLES ADDING UP

  8. Quinn, I am house sitting for a friend, which is a kindness in itself (I am keeping an eye on our Womyn’s Work installation while she is out of town) and this morning, I did her dishes. Just because it felt good to me (i had used the odd teacup and spoon…).
    I had done this before I read your post, but wanted to let you know that it did feel good to do it without having to, and without expecting acknowledgement or reward.

  9. love what you’ve written about kindness and awareness of kindness..and the ripple effect.. and you’re so right…sometimes just listening is a huge, important and appreciated kindness.

  10. I was just looking at Jane’s blog yesterday and contemplating joining her Kindness project. I’m glad to see you participating as I love reading your commentary. Perhaps I will join in too, although now I have missed the first Sunday of March. :)

  11. Kristin McNamara Freeman

    Quinn, When we were responding to your question about our word for 2012 and I replied that “kindness” was my word. I saw a reference to Jane’s kindness project a few days ago; the project did not connect with me and my word that day, but I do remember thinking what a great idea it was. Now, as every day, I am with you, reading, feeling your words and my 2012 commitment to work on kindness in my life, in my treatment of myself and my personal journey and those with whom I interact has just been moved to a new level. Thank you for the deep look at the meaning of the kindness project! I am working on my blog development and will import the symbol from Jane when I am ready to launch, Most importantly for me, my word for 2012 has just been exploded in purpose and intention. Thank you for giving a deeper, more significant meaning to my 2012 word, Kindness.
    With appreciation and delight,
    Kristin

    • Kristin, this is such a great gift for me–to think that you saw Jane’s post, saw mine, and decided to use your word of the year to create kindness and purpose–that’s exciting! Yes, please let us know when you post on your blog.

  12. I hear you on the “reacting” part. The point I discussed this weekend with three other fortysomething teenagers moms is how to manage the personal limits. What do we teach our kids when we see that others take advantage of their kindness? How many times may they (and us) be kind without getting worn out or even worse, abused?
    PS: don´t worry kindness still wins. ;)

    • The very idea that you are in a group who all have teenagers is a comfort–it’s a hard time on everyone. Moms, Dads, sibilings, teens–it’s just a drama filled time of life. While there is no limit to kindness, some people don’t respect boundaries–and teaching teens how to set boundaries is a great way to give them something they can use for a long time.

  13. What a wonderful idea! Do you want people to post here or what?

    • You can post here, or you can post on your own blog and link back to me. If you want to do it every month, you can take the badge from Jane’s website–there’s a link in my blog when you click on her name.

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