“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (Mark Twain)
What if we made a conscious effort to rewire our nation for more kindness in the coming year?
Norman Doidge warns that the US has wired its entire nation for guns and pornography so both are more prevalent now because of repeated actions that people store in our collective mental warehouses. Doidge’s book, The Brain that Changes Itself, reminds us how each time we repeat any action, we grow new neuron pathways toward more of the same.
Most would agree that even one kind gesture can leave us all laughing or hoping more. Many of us have benefited from kindness that wins for us right out of the gates. Recently I moved to Canada after 26 years in New York. Both my fellow American friends and fellow Canadian family members held my hand through the rough spots to make this transition one of the more memorable highlights of my life. From help lifting boxes to a listening ear and enthusiasm others shared in my plans for the future. Their enormous support kept me inching forward at every crossroad, rather than focused on a past I found difficult to leave behind.
Kindness takes personal and collective choices though, to put wings on actions that carry goodwill to higher ground. Our national track record indicates the need to revisit a few basic beliefs.
Currently, polls show that teachers and parents value grades and competition over kindness. So schools would need to rewire for kinder actions that kick-start care and support. Luckily we now know however, how the art of kindness leads to the rigor of mindfulness and how our choices can reel in kind acts so that civility begins to store and stoke our interactions.
I’ve seen problems enter classes I teach through lack of kindness that starts with the slightest words to diminish another, or cynicism that fuels fires of division and distrust.
In 2014 a Harvard poll of 10,000 middle and high school kids, 80 percent of the respondents said they valued achievement and happiness over caring for others. Not surprising, since 96 percent of parents reported they hoped their children would be caring, while 81 percent of teens in the study reported that their parents actually valued achievement and happiness over caring or kindness.
What about the rest of us? While 62 percent of the teens believed their teachers prized academic success above all else, including kindness, many teens crave the latter.
Kindness literally reboots learning benefits both for those who care and those who are cared for. Not surprisingly, people who ranked care for others as less valuable than happiness and learning achievement, and who believed their parents desired the same outcomes, scored lower on an empathy scale, than people who valued kindness.
Kindness altered a learning culture for one young boy when a football player sat with him over lunch in the school cafeteria. See the video proof that could move a nation’s needle in the direction of kindness.
Just one kind gesture from a football player to an autistic kid changed an entire community. Who would have guessed that an aggressive sport such as football, could change a culture from cut-throat to caring? The fact is that our brains can rewire to store kind actions such as befriending a person who’s lonely. How so?
Kindness awakens our brain’s DNA much like a light-switch illuminates a room. Kindness connects our mental equipment to our innate capabilities.
Kindness also primes our basal ganglia by storing more supportive possibilities there. It replaces or overtakes any incivility already there, that holds us back mentally. Kindness fosters the change we’d like others to see in us. It defaults us back to that deep desire to mimic its sheer delight. Kindness grows our mental storehouses with each new use, and spills over time into pools of genuine care that benefits all through more consistent appearances.
The universal language of kindness may be compassion and its evidence likely appears within every caring smile, yet it jump-starts mental sparks for any who wave its magic wand.
Kindness is our deliberate attempt to activate brain parts that lie hidden or unused when bullying or disinterest in others emerges. My grandchildren and I have been investigating kindness as a lived experience that builds interest into learning about any topic we tackle.
We’ve seen together how kindness helps us to disagree, while building goodwill when we differ. We’ve watched kindness transform sarcasm into humor with mental muscle.
Looking to rewire for the art of kindness through the rigor of mindfulness in your day? Find ready-to-roll resources here at my TpT site. Simply copy – use – and enjoy others enthusiasm tossed into any topic you tackle.
When I toured a brain based classroom recently, I watched a teacher walk out quietly with a potentially disruptive student. Five minutes later both student and teacher walked back with dignity, calm and a learning readiness we all admired. In much the same way, my son-in-law steps aside with my grandchildren when they lose control and minutes later both return ready to engage with calm, kindness and curiosity.
The evidence of a kind act shows up in their smile. Since I’m privileged to enjoy a close and trusting relationship with my highly respected son-in-law, I asked Neal why this unusual exchange works so well? What happens in private to leave the children smiling? His response:
“I ask them what’s going on, I listen to their version or emotional reactions here, and then I assure them how much I love and care for them. That’s all I do, but it works.
How would you stoke kindness in ways that others crave?
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